A vibrant narrative and a cute story in need of a bit more drama.

READ REVIEW

MYKAL ELYOT

JOURNEY TO DRAKOS

Whimsical, G-rated, juvenile fantasy. 

Leisha and John are normal siblings leading normal teenage lives. Their normalcy crumbles, however, when an errant soccer ball sends Leisha tumbling into the heart of an enchanted tree. When John follows, their adventures begin. Considering the circumstances, the kids seem insufficiently fazed, even when they discover they are trapped, or when they descend a set of stairs and find a dragon at the bottom, or when their housecat, Mini, begins speaking English to them. The dragon is, in fact, a dimar, a race of furry dragons endowed with wondrous magical powers. This particular dimar, Mykal Elyot, was transported to the human world four centuries earlier by his mother before she was killed by lightning. John, Leisha and Mykal become fast friends and the children quickly learn Mykal’s history through the “memory stones” his mother left in their tree-cave lair. Mykal, it turns out, is the rightful king of his realm, but his mother was forced to flee with him before he had even hatched because his evil uncle, Shua, murdered his father to usurp the throne. Determined to help Mykal reclaim his birthright, Leisha jumps into a portal linking this world to Mykal’s, leaving John, Mykal and a nosy neighbor little choice but to follow. Once there, they must rely on one another—and on Mykal’s untested dragon skills—to survive against Shua and his hostile dragons. To make matters worse, the other dimars distrust Mykal and flee every time he approaches. Fortunately, Mykal discovers a special protector in his native land. But whether he can rally the dimars and save the land from his uncle’s tyranny remains to be seen. Blue’s prose, while pedantic and slow in spots, otherwise conjures a charming innocence, and her narration remains focused on the small wonders of magic and friendship rather than the overarching backdrop of regicide and oppression. While the teen’s constant bickering and Mykal’s tendency to be a little too literal-minded keeps the reader giggling, the lack of any parallel or subplots deprives the story of dramatic tension and leaves it a little too sequential, even for middle-schoolers who expect more complex fare these days. 

A vibrant narrative and a cute story in need of a bit more drama.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2006

ISBN: 978-1-4257-3940-9

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2010

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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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Like a weary yet exultant marathon runner: wraps itself in a flag, totters across the finish line, and crumples in a heap.

THE LAST DRUID

The chronological conclusion to both the four-book Fall of Shannara miniseries and the entire Shannara oeuvre established in 1977.

What began as a standard sword-and-sorcery universe has morphed into one where magic and technology coexist, where heroes zoom around in airships powered by something akin to dilithium crystals yet still fight with swords and blast each other with magic. Here, the Four Lands face destruction by the warlike Skaar, invaders driven from their home by climate change. Four groups with dominant female leads operate largely independently and often without reference to the plot's main thrust. Tarsha Kaynin, schooled in wishsong magic by the druid Drisker Arc, faces a showdown battle with the evil witch Clizia Porse. The witch has hurled Drisker into a demon-infested realm from which there's no escape, where he discovers Grianne Ohmsford, an old acquaintance, a long-term prisoner. Young Belladrin Rish, a clandestine Skaar agent working to subvert the Four Lands’ defenses, begins to doubt her mission. And Skaar princess Ajin D'Amphere, now collaborating with warrior Dar Leah and friends, heads toward Skaarland with, just possibly, a technological solution to the climate problem. Familiar Brooks strengths—courage, perseverance, loyalty, and so forth—are prominent, yet it's hard to ignore the underlying exhaustion. Things happen randomly, so the narrative strands never quite cohere into a single satisfying package; events readers might have anticipated from the previous volumes fail to materialize. Brooks' style is easy and undemanding. His characters often resemble fantasy archetypes yet possess just enough individuality to avoid skepticism; plots seldom stray far from boilerplate. His greatest appeal has been to youth, and recent attempts to inject mature themes such as sexual violence have not been a success. As he has pretty much throughout the entire Shannara cosmos, Brooks takes his departure with the contention that science and magic are flip sides of the same coin. They're not. Science works for anybody. Magic works only if you have the gift.

Like a weary yet exultant marathon runner: wraps itself in a flag, totters across the finish line, and crumples in a heap.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-17854-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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