An educational yet adventurous novel that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the next installment.



From the Spoils of Olympus series , Vol. 1

A hero comes into his own in Kachel’s debut work of historical fiction.

Alexander the Great is dead, his empire in chaos. Following his death, former allies fight to gain control of Alexander’s realm, which is divided among his heirs. Andrikos is a young man growing up in Ilandra during this time of violence and political turmoil. Though he admires the courage of Alexander’s military, Andrikos whiles away with ill-advised friendships and skirts the edge of a criminal existence. The young man is forced to leave his hometown following a violent encounter and the painful death of a friend. He seeks refuge with the army in hopes that he will grow into a strong, courageous man who can someday return home. His training and initiation are brutal, yet Andrikos proves himself to his colleagues and superiors. He’s recruited to assist a mysterious organization called the King’s Hand, a shadowy group dedicated to protecting Alexander’s rightful heirs. With the help of his mentor, Vettias, Andrikos soon learns the arts of coercion and espionage, skills requiring a kind of finesse far different from the brute force essential on the battlefront. Accompanied by the beautiful prostitute Mara, the two men travel on a far-flung mission to infiltrate the highest levels of a royal court and to ensure that the rightful heir to Alexander comes out victorious. Kachel’s novel, the first in a planned series, is a thoroughly researched addition to the genre. The accounts of daily life in the Greek army are far from glorified; rather, Kachel presents a realistic portrayal of the violence inherent to the life of a soldier. Though the plot drags at times—specifically during battle scenes—once Andrikos is engaged by Vettias and the King’s Hand, the narrative takes off. Kachel does a wonderful job portraying the development of Andrikos from awkward, immature youth to confident and skilled operative. Kachel brings to life a huge cast of characters and does an admirable job fleshing them out, particularly Andrikos and the complicated Vettias. Thanks to evocative writing and impressive research, the world of the ancient Greeks feels closer than ever.

An educational yet adventurous novel that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the next installment.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1502703378

Page Count: 368

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.


In this follow-up to the widely read The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), a young concentration camp survivor is sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a Russian gulag.

The novel begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. In the camp, 16-year-old Cecilia "Cilka" Klein—one of the Jewish prisoners introduced in Tattooist—was forced to become the mistress of two Nazi commandants. The Russians accuse her of collaborating—they also think she might be a spy—and send her to the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. The narrative is intercut with Cilka’s grim memories of Auschwitz as well as her happier recollections of life with her parents and sister before the war. At Vorkuta, her lot improves when she starts work as a nurse trainee at the camp hospital under the supervision of a sympathetic woman doctor who tries to protect her. Cilka also begins to feel the stirrings of romantic love for Alexandr, a fellow prisoner. Though believing she is cursed, Cilka shows great courage and fortitude throughout: Indeed, her ability to endure trauma—as well her heroism in ministering to the sick and wounded—almost defies credulity. The novel is ostensibly based on a true story, but a central element in the book—Cilka’s sexual relationship with the SS officers—has been challenged by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center and by the real Cilka’s stepson, who says it is false. As in Tattooist, the writing itself is workmanlike at best and often overwrought.

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-26570-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...


Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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