A spooky, inventive and compelling compilation.

A Stranger to the Darklands


Vampires, witches and zombies share top billing in Blackehart’s creepy debut collection of three novellas in screenplay form.

In this book’s first tale, set during World War II, the U.S. military enlists a wisecracking art thief named Bernie Ross to travel to Romania and impersonate Nazi officer Rolf Fleischer, whom he strikingly resembles. However, Ross and his companions don’t know that the German possesses a powerful relic that’s turned him into a vampire. This results in an entertaining, supernatural adventure story that’s reminiscent of the Indiana Jones movies. However, none of this tale’s lighthearted moments are to be found in the second—a gut-wrenching horror story about a witch in modern-day New Mexico. Real estate investor Sara Ramos Hollister’s child is abducted one snowy night by a shadowy figure, and five years later, Sara’s appraiser husband, Leonard, puts a tax lien on the home of a mysterious old woman, unknowingly invoking the hag’s dangerous wrath. This tale, like the first, is brilliantly frightening and sure to cause more than a few readers to think twice before turning off their lights at night. The third story, unfortunately, falls comparatively flat due to its cast of rather bland and sometimes-irritating characters. In it, U.S. State Department intern Charlie Wager is rendered a quadruple amputee after a bombing in Iraq, and he later becomes a voodoo-oriented superhero. He then tries to save his fiancee from dark forces that are turning hundreds of Brazilians into zombies. Author Blackehart, an actor by trade, says he decided to publish his tales as screenplays, as he originally wrote them, in order to maintain their authenticity. For the most part, this format works, thanks to the author’s agile prose and imagination. However, they do suffer from moments of forced dialogue and awkward interactions, due in part to the limitations of screenplay storytelling, in which characters must often voice plot exposition. These flaws aside, readers who enjoy a scare or two would do well to pick up this collection of memorable campfire stories.

A spooky, inventive and compelling compilation.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1502970510

Page Count: 338

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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


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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With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

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Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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