Beowulf’s loyal comrade takes the spotlight in this charming tale.



This fantasy follows Beowulf’s last living relative into uncharted troll country.

During the sixth century A.D., a two-headed troll rules the Hardanger Kingdom in Norway’s sunless, unmapped north. One head is named Vidar and the other Ansgar, and they both love the taste of human flesh. But Wiglaf the Geat, the last living relative of the Geat King Beowulf, has more pressing concerns. He left his village two months ago, disgusted by his Thane comrades as they ran from the dragon of Earnanaes. Now he’s hunkered down against a granite boulder, trapped in an endless storm with nothing but his sword, Gudbrand, and a reindeer fur. Will he ever find new associates of whom he can be proud? Enter Elenora, the lady troll who rescues Wiglaf and brings him to her cave. Though Wiglaf is delirious, Elenora wears a magic hat to disguise her hideousness, which includes a tail and “hollow backside.” She soon treats him to stew and cures his frostbitten hands and feet. Wiglaf is grateful and agrees to grant her a wish that is within his power. “I want to be married and have a child,” she says, making the warrior (and bachelor) wonder what he’s gotten himself into. In this winsome novel, Girvin (Lucky, 2018, etc.) polishes iconic fantasy elements to a remarkable sheen. The brief presence of Beowulf, who tells Wiglaf, “May your heart remain true and your sword unbreakable,” opens the narrative with mythic thrust. Discussing different types of trolls, Girvin is playful, saying about “farm animal trolls” that they “could whisper in animal ears and make hens not lay eggs as well as tiny trolls that could hide in a child’s mouth and chisel out cavities.” The story’s center is pure sweetness, as Elenora begins her journey with no concept of love—which Wiglaf corrects. Fanciful plot threads, like Dapple, the giant forest cat who slowly picks off the 99 ravens keeping Elenora prisoner, make this a treat for adults and adventurous younger readers alike.

Beowulf’s loyal comrade takes the spotlight in this charming tale.

Pub Date: April 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64214-784-1

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Page Publishing, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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