by Bernard Cornwell ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 2, 2018
Great entertainment for fans of historical epics.
This 11th entry in Cornwell’s Saxon Tales series (The Flame Bearer, 2016, etc.) is a rousing, bloodthirsty tale of tumult in early-days Britain.
Uhtred, the powerful 10th-century Lord of Bebbanburg, sets out with less than a hundred men to relieve the siege of Ceaster and rescue Prince Æthelstan, King Edward’s son. But someone has tricked Uhtred, who has been lured across Britain “to rescue a man who did not need rescuing.” Someone has drawn him away from defense of his native Northumbria, and he determines to “discover the name of an enemy.” Around the year 920, Britain is still a jumble of small kingdoms. Edward is the self-appointed Anglorum Saxonum Rex, the first king of the Angles and the Saxons. He wants to annex Northumbria, but Uhtred will not swear loyalty to him. For one thing, Uhtred’s son-in-law Sigtryggr is already king there. Meanwhile, Christianity is beginning to spread, but the 60-something pagan Uhtred wants none of that—his gods can walk on water too, if they want to. Although the plot is complicated, it boils down to this: Uhtred wants to kill the Norseman who wants to kill him and conquer Northumbria. The story has marvelous details, such as the fierce warrior Svart who has a beard with bones woven into it. Swords have names like Serpent-Breath, Soul-Stealer, and Wasp-Sting. And be they Saxon, Angle, Dane, or Norse, everyone is enamored of wolves, especially the “wolf-warriors” who use henbane ointment to make them crazy before battle. Uhtred observes that King Edward is caught in “a tangle of love, loyalties and hate, mostly hate….The only thing that was simple was war.” And war there certainly is. Serpent-Breath and his many murderous cousins inflict bloody butchery in spectacular hand-to-hand combat. A Christian man laments that “my god weeps for Englaland…my god wants peace.” Alas, that god gets no satisfaction in this grand adventure.Great entertainment for fans of historical epics.
Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018
Page Count: 336
Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018
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by Kristin Hannah ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 3, 2015
Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.
Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.
In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.
Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015
Page Count: 448
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014
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by Madeline Miller ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2018
Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.
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Best Books Of 2018
New York Times Bestseller
A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.
“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.
Pub Date: April 10, 2018
Page Count: 400
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018
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