Fine fantasy that borrows too much from Lewis Carroll when it should invest in itself.



A teenage girl runs away from her life of servitude only to be captured by a sorcerer who will help her discover her true past.

When Carin sets out north, heeding the words of the village wise woman, she’s not sure what to expect, but she hopes the pull northward will shed some light on her mysterious past. On her travels, she mistakenly crosses into the lands of the sorcerer Lord Verek. He’s insulted by her trespass, but his anger is tempered by his shock at her imperviousness to his spells. So, Verek invites Carin back to his home for further study. There, he gives her the task of organizing his personal library, which holds the secret to Carin’s true origins: a copy of the book Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll that only Carin can read. She discovers the book might actually be a relic from a life and time she has forgotten—a separate world parallel from the one they live in. Together, Carin and Verek attempt to harness the power of “Jabberwocky”—a poem from Carroll’s book that, when recited, opens a magical portal for Carin to step through. Carin and Verek’s well-crafted relationship balances in a tense power struggle due to Verek’s questionable motives, while other characters—a chatty housekeeper, a wise wood sprite, an enigmatic elfin gardener—are sympathetic and engaging. Though Lightfoot is a capable writer, the plot of this first novel in the proposed trilogy moves along sluggishly at times because of many scenes oversaturated by extensive dialogue. In the end, Lightfoot also relies too heavily on Lewis Carroll’s imagination. Taking inspiration from Alice’s story and alluding to it is tolerable, if unsurprising, but in Lightfoot’s case, her strong start, intriguing premise and original characters could carry more weight if Lightfoot had continued in her own world-building rather than following Carroll so closely down his rabbit hole.

Fine fantasy that borrows too much from Lewis Carroll when it should invest in itself.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2011

ISBN: 978-0972876841

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Seven Rivers

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2012

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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 strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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