An intriguing but uneven fantasy aimed at Christians who find strength in their faith.


From the Towers of Light series , Vol. 1

This debut middle-grade fantasy uses the well-known Christian song “This Little Light of Mine” to spin a tale about three children fighting against an impending Darkness.

Lauren, Aiden, and Ethan have a happy life with their parents despite the fact that the Heathlands is being overrun by a mysterious force known as the Darkness. Their father, a Master Artificer with the Mighty Mercenaries, must leave home to fight against this evil invader. But before he does, he builds a Tower of Light, akin to a lighthouse, in their backyard. The parson from their church brings a lantern to place in the Tower. The family sets the lamp ablaze by singing “This Little Light of Mine” and keeps it going by remaining faithful to God through prayer and worship. Not long after the siblings’ father leaves, he is reported missing. Their mother must go after him, leaving Lauren in charge of her two younger brothers and tasking the siblings with maintaining the farm and keeping the light in the Tower burning brightly through their faithfulness. In the wake of their mother’s absence, the children discover that things in their town seem to be getting worse, as a mysterious bishop ousts the parson from their church and a vagabond in the trappings of a Mighty Mercenary begins to stir up trouble. What’s more, the kids have discovered weapons seemingly made for them to use in the fight against the Darkness. The Heathlands is a vivid, American frontierlike setting, marking it as unusual in the fantasy genre, which usually takes its cues from medieval Europe. Though Brokken’s series opener effectively focuses on each of the three children in turn, offering rich details, they lack complex characterization. The story portrays the kids as overly credulous and obedient. This is perhaps intended to distinguish them as good Christian role models, and the earnest tale is very much written for devout Christians. While the novel should appeal to that target audience, this strategy prevents the children from feeling like fully realized characters.

An intriguing but uneven fantasy aimed at Christians who find strength in their faith.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-69722-402-3

Page Count: 213

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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