by Yessoh G.D. ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 30, 2021
A gripping and swiftly paced mystical tale primed for a sequel.
Awards & Accolades
Two young men in Africa confront a strange, frightening world of sorcery and spirits in this fantasy debut.
It’s been Kobenan Jean Marc’s dream to work with S-cell, the covert organization that “chases sorcerers.” Now, the 20-year-old African, the main analyst for the president of Côte d’Esperance, has his chance. The president enlists Kobenan to investigate a case with S-cell’s head, Biafle Herbert. It involves the death of a White minister in Brazil—from a heart attack that some attribute to African sorcery. Biafle and Kobenan start at Sector 0, a prison housing “the deadliest sorcerers, djinns, and lost spirits.” Kobenan is convinced one inmate, who predicted the minister’s death, is somehow connected to the possible murder. The investigators’ only option, it seems, is getting the prisoner’s help—by breaking him out of Sector 0. At the same time, 17-year-old African student Kouadio Joel has for years observed creatures that no one else can see. When one day he spots some of these beings fixated on a fellow classmate, he intervenes. These vicious creatures apparently retaliate by attacking Joel and his family at home and abducting a loved one. His search for this family member takes Joel to a forest teeming with otherworldly entities and spirits harnessing incredible powers. Kobenan and Biafle, with the prison escapee in tow, wind up in the forest as well, looking for a formidable sorcerer who may have answers. Though specifics are murky, a war is brewing, and Joel’s surreal new road ultimately intersects with the S-cell investigators’ path.
Yessoh’s riveting series opener moves at a steady clip. Even when scenes linger on the environment, readers continually learn more about the characters and the developing plot. For example, as Kobenan slowly walks through Sector 0 for the first time, he sees bizarre creatures (both inmates and guards) inside a seemingly inescapable prison. The novel’s action comes in exhilarating bursts, from Kobenan and Biafle’s fleeing alarmingly fast “prison dogs” to Joel’s facing off against ferocious beings. This furthermore showcases illustrative prose: “The hand on his face is not budging. Joel sharply pulls and jolts his head from the harsh grip. After a frenetic drag on the large shadow over him, Joel stares before him with wide eyes and disturbed, shortened gasps. There lies the fetish of wood, inert, devoid of red eyes, posing with its extended hand like a statue.” Kobenan and Joel, whose narrative perspectives alternate, are amiable leads; they selflessly confront danger to help others. Many supporting characters flaunt their unpredictability, as sorcerers, djinns, and spirits are both good and evil. In the same vein, the story gradually introduces mysteries. Beyond the death in Brazil, Kobenan and Joel may have surprising abilities of their own. But parts of the tale are intentionally vague, and the author leaves several unresolved questions by the end, presumably saving them for the sequel. While it’s disappointing certain characters’ fates remain unresolved, readers’ anticipation for the second installment will surely soar. The uncredited, black-and-white artwork throughout features myriad details, including some characters against plain backdrops with serene facial expressions.A gripping and swiftly paced mystical tale primed for a sequel.
Pub Date: April 30, 2021
Page Count: 326
Publisher: Library and Archive Canada
Review Posted Online: April 29, 2021
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Brandon Sanderson ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2023
Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
A fantasy adventure with a sometimes-biting wit.
Tress is an ordinary girl with no thirst to see the world. Charlie is the son of the local duke, but he likes stories more than fencing. When the duke realizes the two teenagers are falling in love, he takes Charlie away to find a suitable wife—and returns with a different young man as his heir. Charlie, meanwhile, has been captured by the mysterious Sorceress who rules the Midnight Sea, which leaves Tress with no choice but to go rescue him. To do that, she’ll have to get off the barren island she’s forbidden to leave, cross the dangerous Verdant Sea, the even more dangerous Crimson Sea, and the totally deadly Midnight Sea, and somehow defeat the unbeatable Sorceress. The seas on Tress’ world are dangerous because they’re not made of water—they’re made of colorful spores that pour down from the world’s 12 stationary moons. Verdant spores explode into fast-growing vines if they get wet, which means inhaling them can be deadly. Crimson and midnight spores are worse. Ships protected by spore-killing silver sail these seas, and it’s Tress’ quest to find a ship and somehow persuade its crew to carry her to a place no ships want to go, to rescue a person nobody cares about but her. Luckily, Tress is kindhearted, resourceful, and curious—which also makes her an appealing heroine. Along her journey, Tress encounters a talking rat, a crew of reluctant pirates, and plenty of danger. Her story is narrated by an unusual cabin boy with a sharp wit. (About one duke, he says, “He’d apparently been quite heroic during those wars; you could tell because a great number of his troops had died, while he lived.”) The overall effect is not unlike The Princess Bride, which Sanderson cites as an inspiration.Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.
Pub Date: April 4, 2023
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023
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by Olivie Blake ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 8, 2023
A reasonably charming urban fantasy that could have used a more rigorous edit before primetime.
The latest in a series of rereleases from a prolific fantasist’s previously self-published works is a contemporary spin on the fairytale “Godfather Death.”
Viola Marek is an aswang, a shapeshifting vampire from Filipino folklore. She’s also a Chicago real estate agent trying to sell a mansion even while the ghost of its last owner, Thomas Edward Parker IV, is doing his supernatural best to block the sale. In a desperate attempt to earn her commission, she hires Fox D’Mora, Death’s mortal godson, to use his connection to get the ghost to leave. Unfortunately, Death is unavailable: He’s been kidnapped, and to get him back and prevent a worlds-spanning catastrophe, Fox, Vi, the ghost, and assorted other supernatural creatures will have to enter a high-stakes gambling game that usually only immortals can play…but rarely win. The story begins with an unusual blend of myth, fairy tale, and cosmology and inevitably descends to an almost unbearable level of sentimentality, which is simultaneously a refreshing change from Blake’s usual tableau of self-involved, selfish characters who seem driven toward tragedies of their own making. Blake could definitely do a better job at showing the love between characters rather than merely telling the reader that they’re in love. She also has an unfortunate tendency to skip potentially intriguing bits of backstory if they don’t immediately drive the plot along, which is why readers never learn anything about Fox’s childhood and what it was actually like having Death as a parent. Nor does she explain why only two of the four archangels, Gabriel and Raphael, play outsize roles in determining the order of the cosmos, while Uriel and Michael are nowhere to be seen. Bits of anachronism—like the use of a rubber band as aversion therapy 200 years ago or the presence of a magical wristwatch from a time long before watches were common—might be intended to be Pratchett-style humor or chalked up to magic? It’s hard to tell what’s intentional and what is simply careless. Now that Blake has a traditional publisher, perhaps the editors of her future novels will guide the author to address these issues when they arise.A reasonably charming urban fantasy that could have used a more rigorous edit before primetime.
Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Page Count: 416
Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023
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