Violent, forceful sword-and-sandal adventure with a little Shakespearean tragedy around the edges.

AGAINST A TYRANT

BOOK ONE OF THE FAR END

In the fantasy realm of Vraniga, a paranoid warlord plans a genocidal march against perceived enemies while his rebellious general warns potential targets of impending danger.

Gleason (Ravagers, 2015) may remind heroic-fantasy readers of some of Robert E. Howard’s more brooding, less comic book–ish tales (and particularly the Kull the Conqueror cycle) with this first novel in a planned multivolume saga. The book has an intriguing story structure that starts with an introduction to a clan-village, where provincial dramas of hunting and falling in love are interrupted by the fearsome appearance of Mayodth, a four-armed Obnarm warrior. Mayodth warns he’s leading an army sent by a mad ruler named Deemuth, who aims to exterminate any settlement that lies in the path of his expanding empire. But Mayodth says that he has regrets about leading Deemuth’s bloodthirsty Noomok troops, and he now seeks allies to end the tyrant’s reign. The fact that he and Deemuth were once close friends is one of the twists in the central story, set in the past, about how Mayodth and Deemuth, who was orphaned and brutalized by a sadistic chieftain named Garmish, received help from Noomoks to escape from slavery. The vengeance-obsessed Deemuth later seized Garmish’s throne and degenerated into an equally cruel ruler over time, his ethnic-cleansing rampages encouraged by a pair of seductive concubines who warn him of assassins in his future. In the present, Mayodth seems intent on fulfilling these prophecies. Gleason generates some reader sympathy for the brutish Deemuth, a one-time victim doomed by circumstances to become a foul villain himself. The conspiracy to engineer his downfall becomes part of an overall moral fatalism that hangs over the sinewy narrative. An imaginative cast of beastlike characters is complemented by the humanlike Noomoks, whose culture possesses some characteristics of Native American tribes.

Violent, forceful sword-and-sandal adventure with a little Shakespearean tragedy around the edges.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5489-3118-6

Page Count: 280

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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