Book Reviews & in the News

Kirkus Review

Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island

Harry Houdini’s niece discovers a talent for real magic in this 1926-set YA novel.

Until age 12, Piper Weiss lives in an orphanage and a series of foster homes that never quite work out, mainly because bizarre things always seem to happen around her. Then Piper’s father—gaunt and pale, with cavernous eyes—arrives, taking her to live with her uncle Ehrich Weiss, who is better known to the world by his stage name: Harry Houdini. He and his wife, Bess, are childless, and they welcome Piper, who enjoys her new life of good food, silk sheets, and a backstage view of Houdini’s performances. Although Houdini is dedicated to exposing fraudulent mediums, Piper has unsettling encounters with the genuinely supernatural (including, for example, zombies). She learns to walk through mirrors and also discovers nefarious plans to reanimate freak-show corpses and create a demonic army. Meanwhile, in London, the 13-year-old daughter of Arthur Conan Doyle has an urgent message for Houdini from the spirit world: “For the human race to survive, the girl must survive. But for the girl to survive, the magician must die.” It seems the end times are coming, and Piper has a role to play—but first she’ll have to escape a black magician’s minion called Flapper, the vampire vamp. Herdling (Fantastic Four/Inhumans: Atlantis Rising, 2014, etc.) offers a wildly entertaining story. Barring a few anachronisms, he uses his Roaring ’20s backdrop to great advantage. The slang-slinging Flapper is a particularly successful creation; like other minor characters, she’s well-rounded and not unsympathetic, which manages to make her even more chilling. Piper is an appealing heroine: a scrappy Annie-like orphan who stands up for her friends with courage and wit. Her rise from orphan to pampered niece is irresistible fantasy, but Herdling seldom takes his story to expected places. He lucidly explains complicated matters, from how to escape a straitjacket to Egyptian theories of the soul. Disappointingly, though, the book leaves readers waiting for resolution with few storylines resolved; however, a sequel is planned.

Plenty of storytelling magic, although the story’s not yet finished.

Kirkus Review

Piper Houdini: Nightmare of Esopus Island

After running away to a Coney Island “Freak Show,” Houdini’s niece gets drawn into an apocalyptic battle with an occultist and his evil minions in this YA novel.

In Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island (2015), Herdling (Deadpool Classic Omnibus, 2015, etc.) introduced his plucky, redheaded heroine, who grew up in orphanages before going to live with her famous uncle, Erich Weiss (aka the great stage magician Harry Houdini). After some complicated adventures, supernatural and otherwise, Piper ran away to Coney Island’s Dreamland Circus Sideshow. Now it’s the summer of 1926, and Piper, nearly 13, is thrilled to live and work with her family of sideshow “freaks”—a term of endearment among them: “It’s just another way of calling us unique,” says Johnny “Half-Boy” Hart. Piper reunites with her Creole friend, Sal, and his brother, a zombie, who joins the sideshow as “Punchinello the Painless Man.” But the performers are in danger from Dr. Roy Crandon, a surgeon who performs grotesque experiments at the bidding of Aleister Crowley (the famous, real-life occultist), who’s possessed by the demon Choronzon. Piper investigates her own true identity, following clues such as an H.P. Lovecraft story that was ghostwritten for Harry Houdini. Meanwhile, Crowley engineers Piper’s participation in a ceremony meant to help demons possess humankind, leading to a dramatic, supernatural confrontation involving Piper’s friends, including Arthur Conan Doyle’s daughter. As with the first book, Herdling combines period detail—such as flappers, speak-easies, Rudolph Valentino, and spiritualists—with an engaging heroine and Lovecraft-ian supernatural horrors into a nonstop action adventure. However, it leaves little time to consider the characters and their relationships or for events to have much impact on them or for significant realizations to sink in. That said, the book still retains an underlying emphasis on friendships and family relationships, no matter how oddly assorted they may be, and this offers a good, important counterpoint to all the supernatural weirdness. Herdling also has a good ear for dialogue and 1920s slang, adding a note of fun to the dark, occult shenanigans.

Somewhat overpacked but still highly entertaining.

Amazon Reviews

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 starsFinished it in 2 nights…Long awaited sequel to Herdling’s first Piper Houdini story. If you haven’t read that one, you should check it out prior to reading this one. As with the first story, strong character development, mystery, mythology, and a good dose of action make this a must read series and Glenn Herdling a writer to watch out for in the future.

5.0 out of 5 stars Potter Fans Have An Alternative!…I enjoyed this immensely. The amount of research to bring that level of authenticity must’ve been staggering. Plus there’s laughs, there’s tense moments, there are clever turns of concept, this out-Hogwarts Hogwarts… I will have a hard time containing myself until the second book is out. This should easily be a pitch book for a major motion picture– here’s hoping!

5.0 out of 5 stars An addictive page turner…Mr. Herdling has written a very enjoyable first novel for all ages. I especially liked the character introduction and development from chapter to chapter. I also thought his use of historical individuals and locations was educational as I did look them up for additional information and background. Great job combining fact and fiction. Looking forward to the continuing saga of Piper Houdini.

5.0 out of 5 stars Nice mix of fantasy with history…Combine a lovable 12-year-old protagonist with the most famous illusionist, vampires, an evil surgeon, and side-show performers, and you have the making of a very entertaining story. A unique twist on life with Houdini. Looking forward to reading the second book.

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars…Loved it!

5.0 out of 5 stars It combines historic personalities with modern legends in a fantastic setting. It features fascinating personalities…Piper Houdini was very unusual novel. It combines historic personalities with modern legends in a fantastic setting. It features fascinating personalities. I can’t wait for the second volume!

5.0 out of 5 starsPiper Houdini Brings The Magic Back To YA Fiction…Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island is a thoroughly amazing adventure, that will capture the imaginations of readers ages 8 to 80.

I can count on one hand the number of young adult series I’ve read since becoming a full-fledged adult–Harry Potter and Hunger Games among that lot. Piper Houdini joins the ranks of some of the best-told and beloved stories on my library/Kindle shelf.  read more

5.0 out of 5 stars Magical…This book is magical in many ways. Herdling is an excellent writer and a careful researcher of his subjects. His story is well-crafted and grounded in a period of history that includes everything from the master magician, Houdini, to flappers and the Great Migration of African Americans from South to North. Piper is an endearing and relatable character that I’m sure adults and young adults alike will enjoy. A great debut novel from Glenn Herdling.

5.0 out of 5 stars A Joy Ride…I gave myself over to the charming Piper Houdini and what a joy ride it was! Glenn Herdling is a great story teller, and his graphic depiction of New York City lurches you from your comfortable seat and places you in the bowels of old Coney Island, with its sideshow freaks, haunted house, and creaking boardwalk. Take this ride with all its vampires, magic mirrors, and freaks of nature…and enjoy it!!!

5.0 out of 5 stars What a fun read!…What a fun read! I picked it up with no expectations at all, not even knowing what kind of story it was going to be or any inklings of the plot/characters, and had a great time with Piper.

Our heroine is strong, but curious, and being pulled in dozens of directions by the powerful characters she’s surrounded by. Watching her try to discover who she is, and her place in the world, with strength she may not realize she has is what kept me up several nights past my bedtime. read more

5.0 out of 5 starsA bygone age that never wasA good plot, interesting characters and a richly developed setting and interesting time period. The book is a fun read and unpredictable. The magical, fantasy elements in the story make the story distinctively it’s own world. I’ll be waiting anxiously for the next installment.

5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!…Fascinating! Would definitely read more by this author!

5.0 out of 5 starsWhat a fun book! Great take on a well known iconWhat a fun book! Great take on a well known icon. A perfect book for adults interested in Houdini & couldn’t be better for a kid’s reading list.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun! My 10 year old niece LOVED it… Great fun! My 10 year old niece LOVED it and I have to admit being a man of 46, I was very much entertained as well. Great to have a young female protagonist. A+

5.0 out of 5 stars and makes you feel like you are part of the world that the mainWow! This book is unbelievable! while reading this book I couldn’t get myself to stop. The story line keeps you reading more and more, and makes you feel like you are part of the world that the main character is in. I don’t usually take the time to give reviews to different products on amazon, but this one was so good I just felt like I had to.

5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo! A real fun readFantastic book for kids of all ages. I read the first chapter with my 13-year old daughter because we both like fantasy books. We were hooked. We downloaded the book and finished it in a day or two. Good, multidimensional characters. Great plot with twists and turns. I highly recommend it.

4.0 out of 5 stars Best way to describe this bookBest way to describe this book…my daughter read it first and immediately demanded to know when she could read the second book!! Great fun!

5.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth the $3.99It was an interesting read. For me someone who isn’t always into magic or wizardry, it was a book that caught me and was a quick read. I am looking forward to the sequel now that I read the first chapter of if. Obviously people that are interested in fantasy, magic, Harry Potter and so on would enjoy this book, but for only $3.99, it is well worth the money and time. I did learn and attain knowledge that I would have not known.

4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars…Fun read. Looking forward to the sequel.

In The News

The Record

Glenn Herdling has always found himself fascinated by superheroes. As a youngster, it was The Incredible Hulk. At Marvel Comics, it was Spider-Man, Namor the Sub-Mariner and Dr. Strange.

But when Herdling finally decided to write a novel, he shunned the male superheroes he had identified with and their mythical worlds and fashioned a young-adult female orphan from New York City’s Roaring ’20s whose uncle is the world’s most famous magician.

Welcome to Piper Houdini, who may not yet have the international identity of Harry Potter or even Little Orphan Annie. But if Herdling has his way, Piper, at 12 years old, will more than satisfy reader curiosity, not to mention Title IX gender equity guidelines on her way to literary immortality.  [read more]


Marvel Comics writer to sign new paranormal fantasy novel at Barnes & Noble/Bucknell University Bookstore

LEWISBURG — Glenn Herdling, a 1986 Bucknell University graduate, will be signing copies of his new novel, Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island, at Barnes & Noble at Bucknell University on Saturday, June 4, between 3 and 5 p.m.

Herdling, a resident of River Vale, N.J., is a former editor and writer at Marvel Comics who has written stories for some of the entertainment company’s most popular characters, including Deadpool, Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers. His new novel is a supernatural thriller about a young orphan who learns she is the niece of the legendary Harry Houdini…[read more]

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Supernatural thriller takes Houdini’s niece from Coney Island to upstate’s Esopus Island

Brooklyn BookBeat
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Glenn Herdling, a former editor and writer for Marvel Comics, has published “Piper Houdini: Nightmare on Esopus Island,” the second book in a series about the fictional niece of the legendary Harry Houdini. The character is a 12-year-old girl living in Coney Island during the 1920s.

While the bulk of the action in the new novel takes place on Coney Island’s famed boardwalk, the plot culminates on an island called Esopus, a deserted strip of wooded land with rocky outcroppings in the middle of the Hudson River…[read more]

Author turns young adult genre on its ear by blending paranormal urban fantasy with Coney Island history
Brooklyn BookBeat
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Glenn Herdling, a former editor and writer at Marvel Comics, has announced the publication of “Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island,” a novel for supernatural thrill-seekers about a 12-year-old orphan who learns that she is the niece of the legendary Harry Houdini.  [read more]

Wild About Harry

Piper Houdini is Back!

Glenn Herdling’s second Piper Houdini adventure, Piper Houdini: Nightmare on Esopus Islandis out now as an eBook. A print edition will be available later this year. After running away from Houdini and Bess, saving wild animals from a raging inferno, and a breathtaking showdown with a vampire named Flapper, Piper settles in with the performers of the Coney Island freak show only to discover that she may be the greatest freak of all. As the summer of 1926 heats up, Piper continues the quest for her dark legacy…[read more]

‘Piper Houdini’ now available in print editions

Glenn Herdling’s Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island is now available in hardcover and paperback. It had previously only been released as an eBook. This well-researched and charming children’s book chronicles the (fictional) adventures of Houdini’s (fictional) niece…[read more]

Meet Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island
A charming new children’s book with a nice Houdini hook has been released for the Amazon Kindle. Below is cover art and a plot description for Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island by Glenn Herdling…[read more]



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