A gripping, macabre action story only occasionally marred by slow spots.

THE LAST KING OF THE MAYA

When a Mayan god threatens to wreak havoc on Earth, a young man and his friends must confront their shared destiny.

Young Juan Guerrero has a fighting spirit inside him that he calls his Wolf. His grandfather Manuel was teaching him how to use his powers, but when an armed gang, including several odd members completely covered in black robes, came to the Guerrero’s small village in Mexico and murdered Manuel, Juan’s Wolf took charge of his body. When the dust cleared, most of the gang was dead, the rest were on the run and Juan was in a jail cell. Dr. Gottschalk, an archaeologist at a nearby temple complex to which Juan’s family had a longstanding connection, bails Juan out after he agrees to act as a sort of bodyguard to the doctor’s son Mark. Juan and Mark develop a close friendship, one so close that it is barely threatened by the appearance of Kat O’Riley, a spirited graduate student working at the site. Soon, Mark and Juan have intense feelings for Kat and she for them, but this doesn’t sit well with Mark’s mother, who has plans for her son and Eleanor, a grad student who has had her eye on Mark for some time. Meanwhile, bad things are happening in and around the site, things that seem to hint at a deeper destiny for Mark, Kat and Juan, as well as Juan’s Wolf. Talon’s novel is steeped in a deliciously dark supernatural atmosphere and full of tense action sequences intercut with scenes of lighthearted youthful palling around. While some expository sequences belong on the cutting room floor, for the most part the plot is compelling enough to keep the reader interested. Some of the youthful banter feels forced, but there is more than enough well-wrought action and wonderful creepiness to counteract the rough bits.

A gripping, macabre action story only occasionally marred by slow spots.

Pub Date: April 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-1450760072

Page Count: 413

Publisher: David Talon

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2011

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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