Is Munson’s second novel (The November Criminals, 2010) an unsatisfyingly resolved stand-alone or the prelude to a larger...

THE WAR AGAINST THE ASSHOLES

Some teenagers joy ride; some join gangs; some do drugs; and some, apparently, do magic.

For hundreds of years, the powerful magicians who use wands and other tools (the “assholes” of the title) have repressed the much smaller group who perform magic with will alone. Michael Wood is a somewhat thuggish teen who might possibly have a decent heart and brain buried beneath his hormonal and violent impulses. When his odd classmate Hob Callahan introduces him to the magical minority and their struggle with the assholes, Michael signs on with barely a second thought. The conflict doesn’t really surface in the present day until Hob and his pals steal a number of magical objects, prompting a brutal campaign of retaliation. The philosophical difference between the two cabals seems to be couched as a form of class warfare, but that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. True, the assholes are based at a snooty prep school, but their adversaries consist of two wealthy adults and a few kids living in pricey New York City apartments, some of whom attend a Catholic school with tuition of $30,000 a year. There’s even a mix of racial and religious backgrounds on both sides. The war’s antecedents are steeped in high tragedy, but the modern conflict feels petty. It’s hard to tell whether Michael and his companions have any true sense of allegiance to a higher cause, and his crush, Alabama, is as happy to recklessly use a gun as to employ magic to commit mayhem. Perhaps the behavior (and the annoyingly choppy sentence fragments of Michael’s first-person narration) is meant to serve as an insight into the chaotic nature of the teenage mind, set against the occasionally beautifully described, hallucinatory milieu of the magical world, but it all seems pointless.

Is Munson’s second novel (The November Criminals, 2010) an unsatisfyingly resolved stand-alone or the prelude to a larger series? It doesn't really matter.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2774-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Saga/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

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

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DEVOLUTION

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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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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