Epic fantasy that struggles to grab the reader.



Cox (Zenith’s Spy, 2014) returns to the world of noble Zenith Lord and the evil Dark’s Source in this epic fantasy that begins with a murder.

Jarod Greatstone, the Zenith Lord, has a good life: not only is he lord of the Seven Realms, he’s also surrounded by friends and happily married, with his first child on the way. But when his wife, Zenith Lady Maress, is poisoned and dies—though their child is safely born—Jarod comes to realize that both ordinary human enemies and the dark spirits scheme against him. Jarod and his friends—the guardsman, the spymaster, etc.—track down the source of this evil, which readers already know from the first chapter: High Lord Mountglen opposes Jarod, motivated both by his greed and by the dark spirit–master Shadure. Meanwhile, Shadure and the other evil spirits of Dark’s Source have their own reasons for destroying the Greatstone family—especially since the newborn Greatstone may play an important part in the epic battle. This epic battle of good vs. evil is the major connective tissue between this sequel and Zenith’s Spy: characters are largely new, so first-time readers will find this volume accessible without having read the first. Unfortunately, while this stark good-vs.-evil fantasy can be thrilling, the evil never quite seems threatening, robbing the story of much of its suspense or interest. While we see the good characters collect their forces and figure out who the culprits are, the few evil characters don’t do much at all. The mystery of the Zenith Lady’s poisoning leads to some compelling scenes—e.g., the guardsman testing her food—but since this isn’t a mystery to readers (and not a mystery long for Jarod, who’s told all about Mountglen’s sinister history), the storyline doesn’t engage much interest. The writing is generally pleasant, though readers may balk at the occasionally awkward line: “Enmity bathed both the tones of Shadure’s words in Mountglen’s mind and the sound that eerily floated to his ears.”

Epic fantasy that struggles to grab the reader.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0996006323

Page Count: 402

Publisher: Lezen Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2015

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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