top of page
  • Writer's pictureDan

#BookReviews #YA, #DarkFantasy, & #Thriller


Today on the blog, I review the latest fantasy novel by one of my favorite authors, a dark fantasy I picked up after seeing scads of posts about it on a Facebook group I monitor, and a thriller from a perennial best-selling writer.

As always, mild spoilers might be present in the reviews.


The Serpent’s Wake by Rachel Hartman


Tess goes in search of a rare world serpent to help a friend.

My thoughts

Tess is a more mature and likable protagonist in her second adventure than in Tess on the Road. This makes The Serpent’s Wake a more easily enjoyable read than the predecessor. Hartman doesn’t lose a chance to comment on present-day society, though. In this novel, she deftly explores social justice issues, especially how minorities and first peoples are mistreated by those in power over generations. As Hartman details these injustices, she eschews easy solutions. Indeed, she uses young Tess to mirror a young adult reader. Tess is outraged by many injustices and desperately wants to be a change agent. But as she learns more about the situations, she realizes there are two sides to every story and that no matter how much she may want to fix things right now, not every injustice is easily remedied.

What can the aspiring author learn?

Hartman does a great job weaving social commentary about the modern world into her fantastical stories. Her messages are clear and moving without ever being pedantic. How she accomplishes this is worthy of study by anyone interested in writing stories with a social commentary component.

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff



The last vampire slayer is interviewed by one of the very creatures he used to hunt.

My thoughts

This dark fantasy reminds me structurally of The Name of the Wind. The difference? It’s faster-paced, darker, more action-packed, and in my honest opinion, far better. The world is a bitter one and so is the protagonist, but both grow on the reader with each chapter. At the beginning of the book, I wondered if I was going to DNF it. By the end, I wanted the story to keep going, and now as I write this, I eagerly anticipate the sequel.

What can the aspiring author learn?

Kristoff is brilliant at taking “reality”, whether organized religion or the vampire myth, and twisting it to his own devices. This creates a world that seems shockingly real and off-kilter at the same time. It’s a cool effect and worthy of study.

The Escape by David Baldacci


Brother investigates brother in this action-packed thriller.

My thoughts

This is one of the more enjoyable Baldacci books I’ve read for some time. I typically enjoy Baldacci’s work but not always. I barely finished one book I listened to recently, and I DNF’d one of his early novels.

The Escape, featuring army investigator John Puller, is an enjoyable read, despite having a rather far-fetched premise. I put it firmly between my favorite Baldacci novels, which are the Will Robbie books and the King and Maxwell books. King and Maxwell might be relegated to the third-row seats after reading The Escape.

What can the aspiring author learn?

One thing Baldacci does consistently well is write strong female characters. His male characters, especially the protagonists, are intelligent, talented, and physically imposing alpha males. The Escape features a female lead and female antagonist who are both more than a match for their male counterparts. These are not damsels in distress. They are often tougher than the men in the story and do much of the saving.

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page