An innovative but uneven spiritual tale.



In this debut novel, an emperor establishes a clandestine order to protect and disseminate spiritual secrets that predate the birth of Jesus.

Aram is a nomadic trader traveling through ancient Syria. Isha, his caravan’s leader, encourages him to seek out the spiritual counsel of Murduk, a “silent observer of the universe,” who paradoxically turns out to be uncommonly garrulous and eager to impart his wisdom. Murduk shares with Aram a combination of cosmological and moral teachings, the former vaguely reminiscent of Christian eschatology. Apparently, the “ancient engineers of our species” have left instructions for their return, “when time and space interact in such a way as to open the stargate again.” In addition, there will a decisive battle between the forces of good and evil, which will “drive the planet into an obscure tunnel of death and devastation.” Aram is shown how to interpret the signs—the novel is filled with diagrams that illustrate the messages—and is given an amulet that contains a hexagram within a circle apparently encrypted with spiritual knowledge. The bulk of this tale is devoted to the aftermath of Aram’s spiritual enlightenment—he becomes a great prophet, and his legacy is continued by powerful men like Roman Emperor Traianus. Emperor Constantine eventually founds the Constantine Order devoted to the perpetuation of Aram’s work, and its illustrious membership includes Attila the Hun and Leonardo da Vinci. Consta makes this order the prime mover of world history—the Crusades, the Egyptian pyramids, and King Solomon’s Temple can all be linked to the group.

The tantalizingly inventive aspect of the author’s tale is the possibility of an “inner core” of “prophetic symbols received by the prophet Aram” thousands of years before the births of Jesus and Allah. But the ambitious expanse of history covered here has a price—Consta doesn’t create authentic characters. This isn’t really a novel in the usual sense of the term but an intricate history—it reads much more like an attempt to compose scripture than a literary production. This gives the entire work a ponderous feel, and the prose only reinforces that effect. The author’s writing is often densely packed and bewilderingly vague. The passages meant to elucidate the nature of the prophetic teachings are the most turgid: “Supreme Master, created from the same blood of Aram and the eternal perseverance and persistence of the crossed axis of the celestial globe and the sacred, unified will and wisdom of God, which humbly point us to the sacred points of the lights designated from our creators, ascend to the top of this temple and point us with the sacred sword to the right Blazing Star.” While Consta’s work is reminiscent of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, it fails to fully develop the intriguing novelistic elements of the story.

An innovative but uneven spiritual tale.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-08-656829-5

Page Count: 275

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.


An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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