An impressive magical beginning for the legend of Scargen and his motley crew.


The Shadow of the Gauntlet

In this high-tech fantasy, young Thomas Scargen finds himself embroiled in a magical war while searching for his missing father.

Carl Scargen has been excavating artifacts from Old Egypt, including the sites of the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx, which were buried under sand during the Tech War. Eventually, Scargen’s team finds an ancient gem that radiates immense energy. When the doctor touches the object, a dangerous villain materializes. Meanwhile, back in New Salem, Scargen’s son Thomas wakes from a horrible dream in which his father has gone missing. No sooner does he begin investigating than a magical battle breaks out on his doorstep. During a fight against black ooze creatures called Eerah, Thomas meets a Spirit Summoner named Yareli, her ghostly companion Wiyaloo, and the teleporting dragon Bartleby. They’ve come to escort him to the great mage Ziza Bebami in the mystical city of Sirati. The group is waylaid, however, by agents of the merciless Grayden Arkmalis. Why is Thomas special to both the Council of Mages and an evil, nearly invincible warlord? Perhaps a stone gauntlet of awesome power, wielded by a long line of noble adventurers, holds the answer. Debut author Caracciolo’s sprawling, cleanly written adventure offers everything from librarian trees to soldiers who ride giant bats. Additionally, he stocks seemingly every corner of his futuristic fantasy with vampires, werewolves, intelligent machines and more. Fusing these elements with some comic book tropes, he builds a rollicking tale of longing and self-discovery. Readers will welcome his dry wit: “The imp wore a tan button-down shirt and a green vest—formal attire for an imp, seeing that imps did not normally wear clothing.” Sometimes, though, the prevalence of cockney accents goes overboard: “We ’av given dem duh merchandise, and dey ’av given us duh credits in return.” Nevertheless, Caracciolo’s nonstop imaginative display is riveting. His tale zips among feverishly concocted set pieces and lovingly rendered characters. The final showdown, crafted with aplomb, whets appetites for what should be a doubly epic second volume.

An impressive magical beginning for the legend of Scargen and his motley crew.

Pub Date: May 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615779201

Page Count: 504

Publisher: Roundstone Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2013

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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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