The entertaining start of an epic supernatural series.


Keys to the Coven


A witty urban-fantasy debut.

Demonic Enforcement Agent Max, along with his Personal Spiritual Assistant, Kate, works in the demonic-intervention industry: They find and destroy dangerous supernatural artifacts, for which they’re paid in karma. Kate is known as a demi—a half demon indentured to Max, a full demon, as punishment for her sins against him before she died. Luckily for Kate, Max is as ethical and kind as demons come, and after more than 300 years, he’s managed to adjust to their partnership. Max has been tasked with finding and destroying another important icon—the Minsk Homunculus—that for generations has bound the Woodsen witches to the evil archdemon Roxashael. Now that Roxashael’s consort, Rose Woodsen, has died, her legacy will pass on to her daughter, Felicity. But, as with all the Woodsen women before Felicity, Roxashael has been waiting for the day he can claim her and the Minsk Homunculus for himself. Now the only question is who will get there first. Despite the author’s straightforward writing style, a few of the plot twists are a bit too twisty, occasionally causing some confusion. Loebel’s reliance on dialogue can be distracting at times, and it can be difficult to keep track of the myriad of spells, curses, rules and double crossings as well as the complex demon hierarchy. Though Felicity Woodsen is at the novel’s center, the vile archdemon Roxashael shines brightest, especially when his villainy goes a bit overboard due to his abhorrent habit of having sex with toddlers. Despite Loebel’s tendency to hover too long in one place, which bogs down the plot’s tempo, she commendably weaves together an engaging urban fantasy.

The entertaining start of an epic supernatural series.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479308361

Page Count: 360

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2013

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A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.


From the The Scholomance series , Vol. 1

A loosely connected group of young magicians fight horrendous creatures to ensure their own survival.

Galadriel "El" Higgins knows how dangerous the Scholomance is. Her father died during the school's infamous graduation ceremony, in which senior students run through a gauntlet of magic-eating monsters, just to make sure her pregnant mother made it out alive. Now a student herself at the nebulous, ever shifting magic school, which is populated with fearsome creatures, she has made not making friends into an art form. Not that anyone would want to be her friend, anyway. The only time she ever met her father's family, they tried to kill her, claiming she posed an existential threat to every other wizard. And, as a spell-caster with a natural affinity for using other people's life forces to power destructive magic, maybe she does. No one gave Orion Lake that memo, however, so he's spent the better part of the school year trying to save El from every monster that comes along, much to her chagrin. With graduation fast approaching, El hatches a plan to pretend to be Orion's girlfriend in order to secure some allies for the deadly fight that lies ahead, but she can't stop being mean to the people she needs the most. El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with.

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020


Page Count: 336

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.

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The master of supernatural disaster returns with four horror-laced novellas.

The protagonist of the title story, Holly Gibney, is by King’s own admission one of his most beloved characters, a “quirky walk-on” who quickly found herself at the center of some very unpleasant goings-on in End of Watch, Mr. Mercedes, and The Outsider. The insect-licious proceedings of the last are revisited, most yuckily, while some of King’s favorite conceits turn up: What happens if the dead are never really dead but instead show up generation after generation, occupying different bodies but most certainly exercising their same old mean-spirited voodoo? It won’t please TV journalists to know that the shape-shifting bad guys in that title story just happen to be on-the-ground reporters who turn up at very ugly disasters—and even cause them, albeit many decades apart. Think Jack Torrance in that photo at the end of The Shining, and you’ve got the general idea. “Only a coincidence, Holly thinks, but a chill shivers through her just the same,” King writes, “and once again she thinks of how there may be forces in this world moving people as they will, like men (and women) on a chessboard.” In the careful-what-you-wish-for department, Rat is one of those meta-referential things King enjoys: There are the usual hallucinatory doings, a destiny-altering rodent, and of course a writer protagonist who makes a deal with the devil for success that he thinks will outsmart the fates. No such luck, of course. Perhaps the most troubling story is the first, which may cause iPhone owners to rethink their purchases. King has gone a far piece from the killer clowns and vampires of old, with his monsters and monstrosities taking on far more quotidian forms—which makes them all the scarier.

Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.

Pub Date: April 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3797-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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