An intriguing fantasy world that lacks fully developed characters.

READ REVIEW

POWER OF KIDS

SUNSHINE AND SOUL OF KIDS

When a wicked monarch teams up with the devil to oppress the kingdom’s children, the kids must band together to fight for their rights in this debut novel.

King Hector has proclaimed himself a god and banned all other religious practices. With his magical powers and the help of his sinister master, “the god of land,” he controls the souls of children. Children fear monsters that the adults cannot see, and every night kids are found dead. To further tighten his grip on his subjects, Hector denies children the right to an education, and in the face of such tyranny, no one remembers the kingdom’s culture or history anymore. Then Sunshine is born. Even as a baby, she defies the king with her magic and frees the souls of the children. Yet this battle only starts a larger war. Twelve years later, the formidable Sunshine— who has the ability to see danger “before it happens”—and her friends are ready for the next fight: education for all children. At one point, she asserts: “We should be in classrooms now.” But standing up for education does not prepare Sunshine for an even greater, deadlier conflict, which will bring either peace or destruction to future generations. Kouam’s ambitious fantasy novel has all the vibrant elements of an epic tale rooted in good versus evil, religious struggle, and fantastical magic. But the author’s faulty grasp of the English language leads to a confusing tale. The text lacks paragraph breaks, making it difficult to follow who is speaking. And the awkward dialogue is hard to decipher (Sunshine said, “ ‘Get a sit and we will talk.’ King replied, ‘I do not receive the orders, but I am the one who gives the orders.’ Sunshine said, ‘Know that now you are going to receive the orders, because when you will not get a sit we will not talk’ ”). Prose aside, Kouam’s kingdom is a monolithic culture where everyone thinks alike. All the children want an education; all the adults follow the king’s laws. In the face of violence and threats, everyone is brave. This simplicity does not do justice to the greater complexities of the story, which is rife with conflict: Even the king’s own children turn against him. But this contentious family relationship is ultimately reduced to simple hatred on both sides.

An intriguing fantasy world that lacks fully developed characters.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5320-3533-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2018

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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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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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