An excellent tale that serves as both a thriller and anthropological portrait.

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LOVE THIEF

THE LEGEND OF IXMAL THE HEALER

In this debut ancient Mayan adventure, the son of escaped slaves chooses nonviolence while his father prepares to exact vengeance on his former masters.

Seventeen-year-old Ixmal, of the highland jungle Ppentaca people, visits an altar dedicated to Chac, god of rain. As his father and village chief, Totec, prepares to march an army into the Feathered Kingdom, Ixmal senses disaster ahead. Totec, once a slave in the Feathered Kingdom, listens to the guidance of Hunapu, the village prayer-maker, that now is the time for retribution. To ensure victory, the warriors will sacrifice a child, to which Ixmal says, “If you allow this slaughter, the cause is doomed.” Disgusted with his son, Totec marches without him across the No Name River and into Kuma lands. Initially, the force of 500 men encounters abandoned villages. Only when the Ppentaca begin burning a path toward the Feathered Kingdom’s capital of Ocochac do opposing warriors attack. Totec and his army are destroyed. Shanti, Ixmal’s mother, allows the teenager to leave the village to settle his father’s spirit. He follows Totec’s trail, arriving in the village of a woodcarver named Pich and his daughter, Sahache. After seeing Sahache perform a dance celebrating her passage into womanhood, Ixmal grows enamored and decides to settle with Pich as a farmer, all the while learning what he can of his father’s fate. Bolton offers a quiet thriller that will educate readers about ancient Mayan culture and myth. He places a glossary before the novel featuring terms like “yollotl” (heart, soul), though it’s fun to decode the Mayan vocabulary sprinkled throughout the narrative. Iku, a Kumanian who dreams of an invasion, is an intriguing villain who rises to prominence opposite Ixmal. The author roundly presents the inner lives of his cast, as when Pich wonders: “What quarrel” do the invaders “have with the Feathered Kingdom? That no elder had asked these questions troubled him.” Perhaps most affecting is that these characters’ lives revolve around a harsh environment that, during stretches of drought, threatens society and any progress the enlightened king, Quetzal the Young, might hope for.

An excellent tale that serves as both a thriller and anthropological portrait.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68433-154-3

Page Count: 225

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2018

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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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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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