A familiar but enjoyable fantasy with an intriguing heroine.

LOOKING FOR DEI

Two magical friends seek their destinies in this debut YA novel.

Fifteen-year-old Nara Dall, the adopted daughter of Bylo the laborer, doesn’t know anything about her origins or the long scar that runs all the way down her back. Her best friend, Mykel Aragos, is strong and hardworking but self-conscious about the scar from a surgery to heal his cleft palate. Both teens live in the impoverished town of Dimmitt on the southeastern coast of the Great Lands. Dimmit is preparing for its triennial announcement ceremony, during which local adolescents are tested for magical abilities. The town has not produced a gifted teen in many years, but Nara suspects that she might be discovered at the event. “Not only would” talented young people “earn money in royal service or private employment, but the magic was a gift from Dei. A divine blessing. A reminder that they were loved.” Nara learns from Bylo the secret reason no one in Dimmitt has been chosen—and what it has to do with her—and she seeks to rectify the situation. But it doesn’t go as planned, forcing Nara and Mykel to flee for their lives. Nara’s untrained abilities draw them into a power struggle between dark forces that is about to grip the Great Lands, during which she may finally learn about her own mysterious past. In this series opener, Willson writes in a simple prose that delicately summons his fantasy world to life: “A thin-bladed ornate dagger called a ceppit was the instrument used by the priest to reveal a youth’s magic potential. The priest would intone a prayer and use the ceppit to impale each child’s palm.” While the premise and setting come from the most common tropes of YA fantasy, the author does a good job making the realm come alive by peopling it with complex characters and including worldbuilding flourishes like the runes of the Great Land’s holy book, the Cataclysmos. Readers should be happy to return for the next volume to see what Nara and her friends are up to under Willson’s capable eye.

A familiar but enjoyable fantasy with an intriguing heroine.

Pub Date: March 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9996150-2-7

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Seeker Press

Review Posted Online: March 23, 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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