This odd mixture of industrial history and the occult world lacks charm and coherency, but it earns points for ambition and...

THE TWELFTH ENCHANTMENT

In this change of literary direction, Liss mixes his considerable knowledge of 19th-century England and its industrialization period with a touch of literal magic.

Sweet Lucy Derrick’s past luck has been anything but good. Her father favored eldest daughter Emily, but when Emily died, it brought him and Lucy closer together. Then her father also passed away, leaving Lucy and Martha, the middle Derrick girl, without money or prospects. Martha selflessly married the disagreeable Mr. Buckles with the hopes that he would provide for both her and Lucy, but Buckles forced Lucy from the family home. That is how Lucy came to find herself under the roof of a dyspeptic uncle and his rotten-to-the-core retainer, Mrs. Quince. Lucy’s only suitor, a mill owner named Olson, makes hosiery in a dark, dirty place where women, children and the elderly toil under untenable conditions for slender wages. Olson, who has no redeeming qualities other than being one of the few successful businessmen in town, plans to marry Lucy, even though Lucy wants no part of him, although she acknowledges her prospects are dim. A youthful indiscretion with a much older man has tainted her in the eyes of many, although the runaway lovers were intercepted before anything could happen. Alone, relatively friendless and without resources, Lucy is amazed when the beautiful and mysterious Mary Crawford befriends her, and even more astounded when she finds unsuspected talents for practicing the art of magic. Through Mary, Lucy discovers an innate ability to understand and cast spells, but at the same time, Lucy’s life is caught up in other things she does not understand: the burgeoning Luddite movement, a visit from a handsome, well-known nobleman and mounting fear engendered by shadowy dark creatures that others cannot see and do not realize are there. Liss writes in the almost formal style of that period and faithfully conveys England’s atmosphere during the early advent of mechanization, but the convoluted story moves at a tiresome pace.

This odd mixture of industrial history and the occult world lacks charm and coherency, but it earns points for ambition and characterization.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6896-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

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

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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