An imaginative, delightfully droll debut.

STRANGE PRACTICE

Murderous monks run amok underneath London in this contemporary supernatural tale.

Thirty-four-year-old Dr. Greta Helsing has run a very specialized clinic for five years after taking over for her late father, Wilfert Helsing: she treats the “differently alive” (aka vampires, ghouls, mummies, etc.) that roam in the shadows of London, keeping to themselves and avoiding the public eye. When her good friend Edmund Ruthven, a 400-year-old vampire, calls to tell her that Sir Francis Varney, a very famous vampire, showed up on his doorstep gravely wounded, she can’t get there fast enough. He has a cross-shaped stab wound that’s making him very ill, and he tells of an attack in his flat by a bunch of men (or are they?) dressed like monks, chanting strange phrases. The garlic they drenched his home in added insult to injury. It’s a strange story, but when Greta is attacked in her own car by one of them, who tries to slit her throat no less, seeing is believing. She escapes and gets the dagger after spraying her assailant with a heaping helping of pepper spray, hoping it will get them closer to finding out what they’re dealing with. Meanwhile, a vicious killer inevitably dubbed the “Rosary Ripper” is stabbing people to death and leaving cheap plastic rosaries in their mouths. Could it be the work of the rabid monks? Greta, Ruthven, Varney (who’s having an existential crisis), along with old friend of the family Fastitocalon (of still undetermined supernatural stock) and August Cranswell of the British Museum, are keen to find out and stop the madness, and the killing, for good. Shaw’s affection for her characters is obvious, and Greta is a sensitive, genuinely nice person who loves her job, is unerringly discreet, and cares deeply about her patients, even ones that try to kill her. She’s always innovating new methods of treatment, such as replacing the bones of a mummy’s foot so entropy won’t set in or treating depression in a rat fur (with tails)–draped ghoul chieftain. Readers will look forward to more of Greta’s adventures.

An imaginative, delightfully droll debut.

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-43460-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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