SF/Fantasy & Horror
Black City Saint.
By Richard A. Knaak.
Mar. 2016. 390p. Pyr, paper, $18 (9781633881365);
e-book, $11.99 (9781633881372).
Knaak ventures into new territory with
his first urban fantasy, set in Prohibition-era Chicago. Monsters, swords, and even
a dragon (who do you think started the
Great Chicago Fire?) play prominently in
the story, so Knaak fans will definitely be
comfortable here, but throw in Al Capone’s
gangsters fighting a fallen angel, and surprises are certainly in store. Nick Medea,
formerly Saint George of George and the
dragon fame, is charged with guarding the
gate between the mortal and feirie worlds.
He spends his days destroying horrifying
Wyld trespassers until he gets a call from
Claryce, his reincarnated true love. He
quickly finds himself embroiled in a sinister plot that could once again destroy the
city and the woman he loves. There’s a lot
to digest in this fast-paced, unpredictable
world with a surprisingly well-developed
cast of characters, including a lovable shape-shifter, an honest detective in a dishonest
city, feirie royalty, and a kelpie made of
Lake Michigan waters. Urban fantasy fans
who enjoy Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files
will be hoping to see more of Nick Medea.
Children of the Dark.
By Jonathan Janz.
Mar. 2016. 398p. Sinister Grin, paper, $16
In the first lines of this chilling novel, Will
lets us know that he has a terrifying story to
tell. “The week I saw 17 people die didn’t
begin with blood, monsters, or a sadistic serial killer. It all began with
a baseball game.” And so,
as readers wait, the tension
builds relentlessly throughout the book, and terrible
things do eventually come
to pass in perfect horror
fashion. But first, Janz lays
out Will’s life in small town
Indiana. A local baseball star, he is also poor,
with a drug-addicted single mom and a six-year-old sister he adores. Soon, this unlikely
hero will lead the entire community into a
battle for their lives. The strong narrative
voice, a recently awoken ancient evil, and
a terrifying serial killer with surprisingly
strong ties to Will combine forces to deliver
a story with an old-school horror feel that
is in no way derivative. Heart-pounding action, well-developed characters (both good
and evil), and just the right amount of
gore drive this fast-paced story to its unsettling conclusion. Think Stand by Me meets
Something Wicked This Way Comes, with a
generous helping of the pulp sensibility of
Brian Keene, and you have Janz, a horror
storyteller on the rise. —Becky Spratford
The Last Days of Magic.
By Mark Tompkins.
Mar. 2016. 400p. Viking, $27 (9780525429531).
Fourteenth-century Ireland is a magical land
of Celts living alongside druids, witches, faeries, trolls, and sprites. Half-goddess Aisling is
thrust into a world of chaos as the Irish kings
and queens are divided and vulnerable. The
balance between the Celtic clans, Sidh, Fomorians, and Nephilim is teetering, and this fragility
allows England and the papacy in Rome to independently devise plans to gain power over
the magical island. The Vatican hires Jordan, a
mercenary, to lead the crusade for control over
Ireland and demolish the Irish source of magic.
England joins in hopes of securing Ireland itself.
The ensuing war crucially tests Aisling and Jordan in a story of power and magic, love and loss.
Weaving together the consequences of choices,
from the time of Adam and Eve to the mystical
entities of medieval Ireland to the present day,
Tompkins offers the reader a unique, intricate,
and complicated story intersecting myth, magic, mysticism, and biblical lore. —Becca Smith
The Lyre Thief.
By Jennifer Fallon.
Mar. 2016. 448p. Tor, $27.99 (9780765380791); e-book
Fallon returns to the world of her best-selling
Hythrun Chronicles with this, the first in a
new, related trilogy that picks up 10 years after
Demon Child R’shiel killed the god Xaphista.
Rakaia, Princess of Fardohnya and sister of Ad-rina Wolfblade, has been promised in marriage
to an elderly Hythrun lord. To avoid her fate,
she trades places with her half-sister Charisee
and eventually finds herself traveling with the
charismatic Mica the Minstrel. Mica, longtime
prisoner of the God of Music, escaped and
stole a golden lyre that allows him to control
people through the power of song. This theft
also means that the Covenant, which brought
the magical Harshini into being, is in peril. Despite a vast cast of characters, readers new to
the series should not be overwhelmed, as Fallon includes plenty of backstory (and a handy
character list) in this mix of political intrigue,
romance, wry humor, and revenge. The fast-paced plot will have readers looking forward to
the rest of the War of the Gods trilogy. Recommended for epic-fantasy readers who enjoy
Sara Douglass, Kate Elliott, or David Eddings.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism.
By Grady Hendrix.
May 2016. 336p. Quirk, $19.99 (9781594748622);
e-book, $19.99 (9781594748639).
Teenagers in the 1980s had a lot to worry
about. Would the button
on their skin-tight Jordache
jeans pop if they ate too
many Cool Ranch Doritos
at lunch? Was their Aqua
Net really responsible for the
growing hole in the ozone
layer? And what about the
proliferation of news reports
that there were Satanic cults lurking around
every corner just waiting to prey on innocent
kids? Abby and Gretchen are high-school ju-
niors living a fairly typical adolescence in South
Carolina—until the night they experiment
with LSD and Gretchen disappears. When
she stumbles home hours later, naked and
filthy, she denies that anything bad has hap-
pened to her. Oh, but it’s bad indeed—Abby
realizes her best friend has been possessed by
a demon. Gretchen starts randomly bleeding
and has strange flashbacks and fits. She refuses
to change her clothes, preferring to douse her-
self with United Colors of Benetton perfume
to mask the fact that she hasn’t showered in
weeks. Then, out of nowhere, she seems to re-
cover. But the oddities simply go from physical
to psychological—she manipulates their circle
of friends so that bad things multiply (includ-
ing a particularly horrific scene involving a
tapeworm), and no one but Abby recognizes
what’s happening. Hendrix nails the stagnant
air of suburbia and gets right to the dark heart
of dysfunction that lies beneath so many
teenage-girl friendships. Readers who thought
Heathers wasn’t quite dark enough will find
this humorous horror tale—filled with spot-on
’80s pop-culture references—totally awesome.
YA/M: The hairstyles may be different, but
the angst remains the same and will appeal
to today’s teen readers, especially those who
can stomach the horror angle. RV.
By Adrian Selby.
Mar. 2016. 512p. Orbit, $26 (9780316302302).
Kailen’s Twenty were legendary, undefeatable mercenaries present at some of the most
important events in the history of the Old
Kingdoms. Now, three decades after they
disbanded, someone is killing them off, one
by one. Set in a brutal world of subtle magic,
clashing empires, and commercial interests,
this is an impressive fantasy debut. Selby demonstrates the command of style, character,
plotting, and world building of a seasoned author. The tale switches between the first-person
perspectives of multiple characters, and Selby’s
writing style changes appropriately. The non-chronological narrative is woven through with
flashbacks. Selby creates a robust world that’s
entirely believable, but he doesn’t get distracted
showing it off. He lets the story live in this
world in a deeply effective way. Snakewood has
much in common with the work of Joe Abercrombie and should appeal to his fans. As a
story about the violent world of warriors and
magic, Snakewood is reminiscent of Matthew
Stover’s Acts of Caine series, but without the
science fiction elements. —John Keogh
ONLINE ALERT! If you’re a fan of Syfy’s
book-to-screen adaptation of Lev Gross-
man’s best-selling Magicians trilogy,
don’t miss Erin Downey Howerton’s
episode recaps—Tuesdays on The Booklist
Reader ( www.booklistreader.com).