The Dragon Who Chooses Twice

Telepathic dogs, flying dragons and clairvoyant bears abound in Purpus’ (Dragon Magic, 2014, etc.) new YA fantasy novel.
The fourth book set in Draconia introduces 15-year-old Aster, a headstrong young lady who is seeking purpose in life. Her father is a carpenter, and Aster is slated to start an apprenticeship that will train her in the same art. She has other ideas, though, and enters the Pathfinder Academy, a program designed to help youngsters find their true callings. It is quickly apparent that Aster possesses strong dragon magic and the gift of telepathy. She is also drawn to the history of Draconia when she discovers information about the nation’s past that was doomed to be forgotten. In the middle of her research, Aster uncovers facts pertinent to the future survival of Draconia and the magic that inhabits her world. She befriends a dragon named Jasmine, who has chosen to live in isolation following the loss of her dragon rider. Jasmine and Aster form a powerful bond and become a team, encountering unexpected allies with unique gifts, including a powerful mage, a gryphon and a seer who happens to be a bear. Along the way, Jasmine begins to heal from her loss and helps Aster come to terms with a betrayal in her own family. Meanwhile, dark magic threatens Draconia, and only Aster and Jasmine possess the strength and knowledge to save the country. Purpus has the material for an engaging magical tale focused on family and forgiveness. Her characters are appealing and relatable, modeling behavior that Purpus’ young audience will hopefully find attractive. However, Purpus spends too much time hashing out Aster’s family problems and Jasmine’s angst over her lost rider, failing to build adequate suspense around the existence of dark magic. The possible presence of a black magician is revealed nearly two-thirds of the way through the book, leaving only 100 or so pages to find the culprit and bring about a resolution. As a result, the climax feels unfortunately rushed.
An on-trend fantasy novel that may please fans of Purpus’ previous work, though it lacks a wider appeal.

Pub Date: July 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0692221259

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Purpus Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2014

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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