A mostly sturdy foundation for a fantasy series that arms its hero with powers, sidekicks, and motivation.

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DIFFERENT LEE

From the Different Dragons series , Vol. 1

In Hiatt’s (The Devil Hath the Power, 2016, etc.) fantasy novel, a Korean-American man discovers long-dormant supernatural abilities and finds that an evil sorcerer wants his blood.

DL works as an auto mechanic at Al’s Garage in the small town of Le Dragon, Wisconsin. His Korean name, Daelun Yong Lee, translates to the awkward “Different Dragon Lee.” However, he wants nothing to do with Korean culture, mostly because he’s disassociated himself from his parents, who abandoned him as an infant. But there’s something else in his past he can’t ignore: he has a particular type of blood that affords him supernatural abilities, starting with superstrength and the ability to see in the dark. His powers appear to have been ignited by his one-night stand with Ekaterina Dragwyla, who turns out be a centuries-old preternatural being. Unfortunately, a man named R?zvan Bey (aka “the Collector”) has plans to obtain the blood of both DL and Ekaterina. Bey gets leverage against DL by going after high school senior Max Murphy, a part-timer at Al’s Garage whom DL sees as a little brother. Things escalate when cops suspect DL in a murder committed by Bey. The mechanic searches for allies, and he gains a few of the supernatural variety, including a faerie, a sorceress ghost, and even a vampire. They face off against Bey and his minions in a battle that entails traveling to various places via magical portals, and not everyone will come out of it alive. Hiatt’s protagonist is initially unlikable (he bluntly tells Ekaterina that she wasn’t “that good in bed,” for example), but he gradually becomes more appealing through his heroic behavior. For example, his valiant desire to keep Max safe extends to protecting Max’s parents, as well. The story playfully hints at its fantasy elements before they actually surface; for instance, a local bar is called Dragon’s Lair. There are also copious mystical characters, most of whom are introduced in the lengthy but action-laden final act. However, DL too often draws on his movie knowledge for methods to defeat villains, which generally prove successful; this makes him seem more lucky than skilled, and causes the narrative to unnecessarily rely on genre clichés.

A mostly sturdy foundation for a fantasy series that arms its hero with powers, sidekicks, and motivation.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5399-8887-8

Page Count: 248

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2017

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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