An often engaging tale that should keep readers hooked with a blend of magic, high-stakes action, and the continuing growth...



A 16-year-old, his parents, and his magical sprite girlfriend are threatened by a conspiracy of corporate villains on Earth and an Emperor from another world in the second book in Goodell and Bright’s (The Harmonies of Magic, 2017) YA fantasy series.

In the previous installment, most of the action took place on Earth’s unseen twin planet, Bespri, the home of sprites and of magic made possible by the mysterious Harmonies. There, teenager Ben had found himself in the middle of a conflict between the land of Feyr, ruled by an authoritarian Emperor, and the land of Caldae, whose benevolent queen was leading her people into democracy. Having played a major role in preventing the Emperor from suborning the magical Harmonies, Ben and his newly reunited parents now assume that the Emperor’s threats to their well-being are over. In this outing, Goodell and Bright prove that assumption wrong, mixing action (including some mild violence), suspense, and character-building dilemmas into a renewed conspiracy involving the scheming Emperor; Ben’s computer scientist mother, Kate Palmer; and a secret artificial-intelligence project. Ben, in training to become a Guardian of Caldae, returns to Earth with the object of his affection, the strong sprite princess Mizli, to deal with kidnappers, an increased number of Feyrens on Earth, and a plan that could affect life on both planets. In the struggle, Ben discovers his own nascent magical abilities, and, without any off-putting preachiness, the authors once again weave character-building messages into the plot: specifically, Ben and Mizli’s challenges with self-doubt and the value of critical thinking and informed decision-making. The story is deepened by its vivid settings, strong female characters, the diversity of Bespri’s inhabitants, the Caldens’ efforts toward democratic government, and opportune appearances of enigmatic, wisdom-imparting beings. However, the authors might have considered trimming some expository passages and frequent statements that Ben is bored with school. Also, stronger proofreading is a must, as a good portion of the second chapter is repeated whole-cloth.

An often engaging tale that should keep readers hooked with a blend of magic, high-stakes action, and the continuing growth of its likable teen protagonist.

Pub Date: June 3, 2018


Page Count: 244

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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