A fun but chaotic fantasy series starter.

COBASFANG JUSTICE RETURNS

In this middle-grade fantasy, a brave teen makes a dangerous journey in order to aid his sick grandmother.

Tyler, who prefers the nickname “Ty,” has two best friends, Dylan and Xavier. They’re all playing cards in their treehouse in old man Grady’s backyard when Ty’s younger brother, Bob, pops in and exclaims that their dad has been injured. He’d been digging for blue fire rubies beneath Eagle Cliff when a cave collapsed. The rubies, in the hands of a skilled doctor like Ty’s mom, can be used to create effective healing potions. Ty’s ailing grandmother needs them, and with Eagle Cliff closed off, the next place to search for rubies is the Shadow Forest. Although it’s full of dangerous creatures, such as the horned rinog, Ty manages to sneak into it. He fashions several weapons, including a bow and arrows, and heads for Crystal Mountain. There, he meets a 50-foot-long “vipercon” serpent named Normack who initially wants to eat him for dinner. But when Ty stands up to the snake, he gains a friend. Later, the hero creates a black sword, crackling with power, from the skin of a giant “life leech.” Normack then says that Ty reminds him of the legendary warrior Cobasfang. For his debut, Walker delights in blurring the line between the familiar and the surreal. He doesn’t name Ty’s hometown, but it has some modern elements, such as a high school and a swimming pool; at the same time, it’s surrounded by protective razor bushes. Ty’s quest is playfully meandering, featuring swamps, caves, and the hidden kingdom of Zintar. Along the way, the boy battles a parade of odd creatures, including giant cave rats, the Norgon scavengers who ride them, and a rock monster named Grog. Walker’s principal lesson to young readers is that “knowing when to enter a dangerous area and when to avoid one is a sign of maturity.” The drama of the grandparent’s illness, however, doesn’t provide much narrative cohesion; instead, Walker simply throws in one danger after another until he decides to set up a sequel.

A fun but chaotic fantasy series starter.

Pub Date: July 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64214-457-4

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Page Publishing, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

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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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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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