A grisly reflection on human nature.

EMPIRE DECAYED

From the Death and Life of Zebulon Finch series , Vol. 2

Born in 1879, murdered in 1896, and awakened 17 minutes later as a sort of animated cadaver, Zebulon Finch offers this second installment of his autobiography, spanning 1941 to the 21st century.

Blond, white, self-proclaimed handsome devil Finch, perpetually 17, continues his limping course through key moments of American history. He unfailingly reveals humanity’s most brutal tendencies, including World War II concentration camps, the vitriol of 1950s suburban housewives, and chronic abuses within mental health facilities. As in The Edge of Empire (2015), Finch still occasionally longs for acceptance from his fellow man, even fantasizing about becoming a stepfather figure at one point. But any sympathy these episodes may garner from readers is soon destroyed by his inevitable return to cruelty. It’s difficult to forgive decisions like his formation of a strange 1970s desert cult in which he encourages followers to practice cannibalism. Kraus’ signature gory prose offers details of these practices: “A typical recipe was to remove a chunk of meat from one’s thigh…and simmer it in broth before offering it to a friend.…It was an acquired taste, so new mothers rubbed blood on their nipples so that their breastfeeding children would develop the craving.” Moments like these may haunt readers far beyond any of Finch’s emotional or theological ruminations. In the end, Finch's fancy vocabulary and occasionally affected formality never obscure his interior monster.

A grisly reflection on human nature. (Horror. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1142-4

Page Count: 784

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist.

LOCK THE DOORS

A blended family seeks a fresh start in a new home.

Tom’s mother believes that the family may have finally found happiness. After years of dating losers, she’s finally settled down with a nice guy—and that nice guy, Jay, happens to have a daughter, Nia, who is just a little older than Tom. The new family has moved into a nice new house, but Tom can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong. They discover a strange message written on the wall when they are stripping the old wallpaper, and there’s clear evidence that the previous owners had installed locks on the exteriors of the bedroom doors. Those previous owners happen to live a little farther down the street, and Tom quickly becomes obsessed with their teenage daughter, Amy, and the secrets she’s hiding. This obsession unfortunately becomes a repetitive slog involving many pages of Tom’s brooding and sulking over the same bits of information while everyone tells him to move on. Readers will be on everyone’s side. But then, a blessed breath of fresh air: The perspective shifts to Amy, and readers learn in spectacularly propulsive fashion exactly what she’s hiding. Regret and intrigue blend perfectly as Amy divulges her secrets. Alas, we return to navel-gazing Tom for the book’s final pages, and everything ends with a shrug. Main characters default to White.

A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72823-189-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell...

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SIX OF CROWS

Adolescent criminals seek the haul of a lifetime in a fantasyland at the beginning of its industrial age.

The dangerous city of Ketterdam is governed by the Merchant Council, but in reality, large sectors of the city are given over to gangs who run the gambling dens and brothels. The underworld's rising star is 17-year-old Kaz Brekker, known as Dirtyhands for his brutal amorality. Kaz walks with chronic pain from an old injury, but that doesn't stop him from utterly destroying any rivals. When a councilman offers him an unimaginable reward to rescue a kidnapped foreign chemist—30 million kruge!—Kaz knows just the team he needs to assemble. There's Inej, an itinerant acrobat captured by slavers and sold to a brothel, now a spy for Kaz; the Grisha Nina, with the magical ability to calm and heal; Matthias the zealot, hunter of Grishas and caught in a hopeless spiral of love and vengeance with Nina; Wylan, the privileged boy with an engineer's skills; and Jesper, a sharpshooter who keeps flirting with Wylan. Bardugo broadens the universe she created in the Grisha Trilogy, sending her protagonists around countries that resemble post-Renaissance northern Europe, where technology develops in concert with the magic that's both coveted and despised. It’s a highly successful venture, leaving enough open questions to cause readers to eagerly await Volume 2.

Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell into a family . (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-212-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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