A jumble of inconsistent plot, by-the-numbers romance, artless characters, and muddled theme.

THE WELL OF PRAYERS

From the Temple of Doubt series , Vol. 2

The sequel to The Temple of Doubt (2015) further explores the conflict among the god Nihil, the magic-wielding Azwans, and narrator Hadara.

Sixteen-year-old pale, golden-eyed Hadara of Port Sapphire in the world of Kuldor is wondering if she is possessed. Ever since she thwarted the Azwans’ attempt to sacrifice her, she has been able to understand the languages of the lizardlike Gek and the Feroxi, pale-skinned, blue-eyed giants. The Feroxi have been sent to Port Sapphire to put the populace back on track in the pious worship of the god Nihil, whose creed has to do with doubting certainties and being certain of doubts. It’s a fuzzy premise that doesn’t get any clearer because plot and character consistency is a deep and ongoing problem. The amplification of the fledgling romance between Hadara and tawny-skinned, brown-eyed Valeo—a half-human, half-Feroxi guard—is fraught with so many emotional reversals that readers will be forgiven for thinking that they are manufactured solely to conveniently fit themselves into the plot point of the moment. Hadara’s overabundant interior monologues do not add any clarity, instead coming across as contradictory and obtuse. Worldbuilding is trivialized by the characters’ ostentatious habit of taking Nihil’s name in vain, à la “Nihil’s nuts,” “Nihil’s scrawny buttocks,” “Nihil’s knuckles,” etc.

A jumble of inconsistent plot, by-the-numbers romance, artless characters, and muddled theme. (Fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63450-193-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Without sparks to sustain it, the story fizzles.

WAKING IN TIME

She’s going back in time; he’s going forward; they meet in 1961.

Still raw from her grandmother’s death, 18-year-old Abbi takes comfort in the fact that she is starting her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It’s the perfect place, one where the white narrator can make a fresh start and stay close to the memory of Grandma, who once walked the very same halls. But in her wildest dreams, Abbi never could have imagined just how close the two would be. For reasons she is desperate to understand, Abbi finds herself traveling backward through time, with each new stop providing clues to a mysterious family secret. To add to the intrigue, Abbi discovers she’s not the only time traveler. Will, a handsome white farm boy from 1927, is on his own journey forward through time, and Abbi gradually realizes that Will is not only linked to her family’s past, but also holds the key to her heart—past, present, and future. Though this may provide a quick fix for fans of time-travel romance, the novel fails to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. While Abbi is a likable-enough protagonist, the story meanders, and the dialogue often feels stilted. However, the greatest disappointment is that a potentially delicious romance between Abbi and Will fails to gain any traction for the first two-thirds of the novel.

Without sparks to sustain it, the story fizzles. (Science fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63079-070-7

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Switch/Capstone

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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A patchy but occasionally powerful mix of family drama, late-’60s culture clashes, and wilderness adventure.

BACK HOME

From the Secondhand Summer series , Vol. 2

His big brother’s return from Vietnam with wounds both physical and psychological shakes up a 16-year-old Alaskan’s familiar world of girls, guns, and clueless grown-ups.

Three years after his father’s death and the move to Anchorage recounted in Secondhand Summer (2016), Sam Barger is left at home with just his fretful mom—until, that is, his strong, admired brother, Joe, comes back from the war with crutches, nightmares, flashbacks, and a heavy drinking habit. Almost as upsetting as the changes he sees in his brother, the flak Sam is already catching for his long hair and for joining a peace march (partly from conviction, partly in pursuit of Iris, an activist schoolmate willing to share the occasional snog and joint) intensifies as news of Joe’s return gets around. When Sam takes off on his own for the family’s old cabin in Ninilchik, Joe follows, setting up a hunting expedition and an accident that tests Sam’s heart as well as his abilities to build a fire (using “squaw kindling”), butcher a moose, and complete other outdoorsy tasks. Aside from a classmate who identifies himself as “a half-breed Athabascan,” the cast presents largely White, with the three women given significant roles stereotyped as a hand-wringer (Sam’s mother) and two temptresses. Walker does better with his guys, and perceptive readers will see that the brothers’ underlying ties remain firm beneath their banter.

A patchy but occasionally powerful mix of family drama, late-’60s culture clashes, and wilderness adventure. (Historical fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5132-6269-7

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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