Monday, December 22, 2014

Estes' Latest Proves That JK Rowling Does Not Own the Teen Witch/Wizard Genre

Source: Author Website
Brew (Salem’s Revenge #1) by David Estes (Self-Published, 2014, 399pp.)

To anyone who thinks that J.K. Rowling now owns the teenage witch/wizard genre in the wake of Harry Potter, I would like to introduce them to David Estes’ latest novel, Brew. Forget the valiant struggle against evil by Hogwarts’ Gryffindor graduates. Estes’ magic-folk return to their monstrous, old-world origins—and then some.

As the novel opens, we meet Rhett Carter, a mild-mannered teen whose favorite activities include book blogging and hanging out with friends. Then, out of the blue comes “Salem’s Revenge,” a day of gruesome horror and violence against humans by the demonic witch species—punishment, they claim, for centuries of abuse at the hands of mankind. Suddenly, Rhett has no home, no family. On top of that, his two best friends, girlfriend Beth and best bud Xavier, are missing. In the aftermath of the attacks, Rhett stumbles across quiet Mr. Jackson, a neighbor and former CIA operative. He knows all about the witches, and he can show Rhett how to fight them. With Mr. Jackson’s training, Rhett now has a new goal in mind: not to just survive, but to survive long enough to find his friends, and extract sweet, sweet vengeance against those who murdered his family.

I pretty much have only good things to say about Brew. Like the teen protagonists in Estes
Dwellers/Country Saga, his heroes and heroines are brave, stoic, and very human. The almost constant death-scenes are surprising at first, then seem only inevitable as Estes proves that he pulls no punches when it comes to character death. Another thing I liked was the lack of romance that seems so prevalent in YA fiction these days no matter what the genre. Although Rhett frequently reminisces about his girlfriend, these scenes serve to emphasize his emotional attachment to her, and end up making his desperate search all the more heart-rending. For those who found themselves fascinated by the incendiary terror found in Rick Yancey’s apocalyptic 5th Wave, I recommend Brew for Ages 16-Up.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Apolline Sibyl

Source: Author Website
The Apolline Sibyl (Apocalypse Signs #2) by Dave Becker (Self-Published, 2014, 310pp.)

When we last left Kalos Academy, Tony and his friends had just managed to stall the demonic Sinthos in his efforts to bring about the apocalypse. Now at the beginning of the gang's sophomore year (narrated by Tony's friend Jenna instead of Tony himself), things get even crazier. First, a wounded giantess staggers onto the marching band's practice field and collapses. While the school assures its students that the woman has been sent to the hospital for treatment, Jenna and friends discover that the mysterious female is actually still on campus, lying in a comatose state. Then, Sinthos again makes an appearance, this time demanding that the gang steals an ancient artifact from the school and hand it over to him. When they refuse, Sinthos makes his wrath known: red clouds of death hover over campus, lava bubbles up in the school swimming pool, and earthquakes rock the town's residential area. As the world falls to pieces around them, Tony, Jenna, and their friends resolve to fight Sinthos to the bitter end.

What I really like about this series is Kalos Academy itself. The author does a great job of describing what classes are offered, and what an average school day is like. I was also very impressed with how the author handles the mystery of the giantess. On the downside, however, the overall tone of the story seems a bit rushed, and while the pacing is consistent enough to keep short attention spans engaged, it also hinders possible character development. Overall, an interesting, action-packed plot, with under-developed characters. Recommended for Ages 14-16.