by Christian Kachel ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 18, 2016
A solid, if somewhat slow, follow-up novel about a Greek warrior and spy.
A soldier fights for home and family in this second installment of an epic series.
In Kachel’s (Spoils of Olympus: By the Sword, 2014) sequel, Greek combatant and spy Andrikos and his mentor, Vettias, continue their quest to defend the heirs of Alexander the Great amid a dangerous civil war. After the death of Gen. Eumenes, the two spies must ingratiate themselves with their new leader and former enemy, Antigonus. Andrikos continues to hone his skills as he and Vettias conduct assassinations, plant rumors, and generally attempt to undermine their enemies. While Andrikos navigates a web of political intrigue, he also develops a personal life. He reunites with a woman named Mara only to find out she has given birth to their child, a son called Talos. The couple enjoy a series of clandestine meetings, reinforcing their love for each other, before Andrikos makes his move and wins his family back. But a family can be a complicating factor for a spy whose life is often at risk. When Antigonus instructs Andrikos to bring the remaining heirs of Alexander to their side, Andrikos faces a treacherous mission where he must make choices that could endanger his life and the well-being of his newfound family. Kachel presents another well-researched novel that explores a fascinating but overlooked period of Greek history. His descriptions of military life, especially the intrigue and the battles, are spot-on. He includes a huge cast of characters, many of whom are pulled straight from the pages of history. But the sheer volume of names and alliances can be difficult to keep straight. A bigger problem is the slow pacing of the narrative. Warring generals continue to vie for power with little lasting success and few tangible plot developments. Thankfully, the narrative gains steam toward the end, when Andrikos returns to his hometown and then embarks on his mission to rescue the heirs of Alexander. Kachel continues to skillfully develop Andrikos’ character. Some of Kachel’s best scenes depict his hero’s relatable struggle to balance his personal and professional lives as the young man grows into his roles of spy, husband, and father.A solid, if somewhat slow, follow-up novel about a Greek warrior and spy.
Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2016
Page Count: 334
Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2017
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Kristin Hannah ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 3, 2015
Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.
Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.
In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.
Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015
Page Count: 448
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014
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by Madeline Miller ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2018
Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.
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Best Books Of 2018
New York Times Bestseller
A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.
“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.
Pub Date: April 10, 2018
Page Count: 400
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018
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