Possibly preachy, but usefully so, and eloquently expressed.

ACROSS THE GREEN GRASS FIELDS

From the Wayward Children series , Vol. 6

The sixth novella in the Wayward Children series introduces yet another child who tumbles through a portal to a magic land and is forever changed.

Three years ago, when she was 7, Regan Lewis rejected her sweet and quirky friend Heather in favor of mean queen bee Laurel. But the gravity of her mistake doesn’t really strike home until Laurel viciously rejects Regan when Regan, now 10, reveals something her parents have just told her: Regan is intersex, which explains why she isn’t maturing like the other girls. A distraught Regan flees into what’s left of the local woods and inadvertently passes through a magical door to the Hooflands, populated by fauns, minotaurs, kelpies, and all manner of other hoofed beings. A kindly band of centaurs takes Regan in, and she gladly becomes part of their simple life herding unicorns, discovering true friendship with the centaur girl Chicory and satisfaction in her apprenticeship to their healer. But her contentment cannot last, because all denizens of the Hooflands know that human visitors to their realm will ultimately become heroes and save them from dire threat, whatever that happens to be. Can Regan defy her destiny, or must she inevitably meet the mysterious Queen Kagami and defeat a hitherto undefined evil? McGuire revisits her well-known themes: the cruelty demonstrated by some children as well as the strong and beautiful friendships that more open-hearted children can build, the pain of trying to conform in a society that punishes outliers, and the rewards of following one’s own path and finding that place where one fits and flourishes. Because she is the only human among them, Regan is free to express her humanity in any way she chooses...up to a point, anyway—the point at which the story turns. This is probably the most literal iteration of McGuire’s ongoing argument that biology is not destiny. The author can’t seem to stay away from transmitting these messages over and over, both in this series and in her other works, but she does transmit them beautifully, and some people may need to read them over and over, either for reassurance or to let the ideas sink in.

Possibly preachy, but usefully so, and eloquently expressed.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-21359-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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

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 breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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