A promising first effort—filled with strong characters—that shines despite its ponderous writing style.

Calypso Sun

A debut novel explores the past and present of a war-torn land and its leaders over the course of one night.

Violence has haunted Braeland for centuries, as different families and regions repeatedly clash in brutal battles punctuated by only tenuous periods of peace. The source of this unending conflict is religion. While most people live in accordance with sacred texts called the Way, which tell the stories of the two brothers Faedelin and Mehsani, the South sees the latter as their ultimate savior, while the North adores the former. The tale focuses on only one night and the tenuous attempt to sign a peace treaty that follows. Flashbacks explore the pasts of four main characters and connect their personal histories to their emotional and physical wounds. Jon Carrow, a Northern general, is unstable and traumatized after years of displacement and rejection, while his compatriot Payton Tallhart puts on a resolute public face as the soon-to-be-queen of Braeland. She quietly wrestles with memories of her turbulent youth and religious fanatic father. Payton maintains a close friendship with the thoughtful Jem Nalda, now a soldier for the South. Jem’s lover is Lanair Mavogar, reputedly the last living descendant of Mehsani and once the adoptive brother of Carrow. Alexander convincingly depicts a complex society riven with deep divisions while also creating fully realized characters whose relationships reflect both personal and political turbulence. The book’s major weakness is a tendency toward laborious writing. Though his characters, worldbuilding, and plot are all intriguing, Alexander often gets bogged down in overly long and complicated metaphors that explore his players’ mental states. These passages elucidate those states far less than sequences that describe these characters in plain language. The story’s many flashbacks sometimes become jarring, as the narrative intercuts between past and present with little indication. The highly complex histories of this sweeping world and the dynamic characters are examined over the entire course of the novel, so acquiring a full understanding requires patience and close reading.

A promising first effort—filled with strong characters—that shines despite its ponderous writing style.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-60414-4

Page Count: 422

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2016

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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