THE SERPENT'S TOOTH

Retreading ancient legend for the modern British mytho- fantasy fiction devotee is Paxson's specialty (e.g., The White Raven, 1988, a return to the saga of Tristan and Iseult); this time out, she's tracking down the Lear story, first amid dusty tomes like Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of England, and then in her own busy imagination. It's around the fifth century B.C. when Paxson kicks things off, with the Celts (here, the Quiritani) recently arrived in Britain, subduing the land under the leadership of King Leir. Leir manages this feat, despite continued resistance from weird pockets of recalcitrants like the Old Race and the Painted People, largely by getting children off local queens—exclusively women-children, three in number: beautiful Rigana, Gunarduilla the warrior-woman, and little Cridilla, who loves Leir dearly, and is Paxson's heroine. After an enlightening stint on the Misty Isle with She-Bear, who trains Cridilla in the ways of war, and some bizarre coming-of-age rites at the Womb Cave, Cridilla sticks by her father as his ragtag kingdom begins to unravel. She also gets pregnant by a princeling from the Great Land, or Europe. This is all interesting enough, but about halfway through, when Leir exiles Cridilla for telling him the truth about the nature of her love for him, Paxson reclines back into the ever-beguiling Shakespearean version of the legend, leaving few surprises in store. Rigana and Gunarduilla turn on the old man, rebellion erupts, and Cridilla returns—though Paxson serves up a happy ending, leaving her to live and rule. It's all just a little too familiar and rehearsed, with multitudinous settings that pass by in a fog. Perhaps, then, a reasonable selection for the Marion Zimmer Bradley crew, but by no means a standout.

Pub Date: July 16, 1991

ISBN: 0-688-08339-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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