A conventional but well-rendered take on quest fantasy’s master-apprentice trope.

NASU RABI (OLD BEAR)

A debut historical fantasy sees a peasant boy, orphaned by raiders, taken in and trained by a solitary old man whose very name is legend.

Fourteen-year-old Darius lives in a small village on the outskirts of what used to be the Chungoku Empire, a vast realm resonant of dynastic China. It has been 30 years since the empire fell. Barons now rule the land; the people are happy. But then raiders come to Darius’ village. His brother is killed and his mother captured. Vowing to rescue his mother, Darius sets off in pursuit of the marauders. This hopeless undertaking seems certain to end badly, but Darius meets an old hunter—Arthengal—who offers to teach him swordsmanship and survival skills. Arthengal lives in a secluded valley. If Darius will join him there, Arthengal will prepare him for the quest that lies ahead. Though impatient, Darius agrees. Thus begins the student-teacher relationship that will change and define his life. Arthengal is also known as Nasu Rabi (which means “Old Bear in the old tongue”) and is a hero of the civil war. Under his instruction, and listening to his stories, Darius grows to become a man. But even after 30 years, is the war truly over? And what of the other bear in Darius’ life—the one he blinded in an eye with an arrow and that to this day follows him? Darius believes it is the embodiment of Antu, the sky god, sent to test him. When the day comes to resume the hunt for his mother, will Darius be ready? In this series opener, Roley has an easy writing style, narrating in the third person mostly from Darius’ point of view but occasionally from the perspectives of minor characters as well. The resulting storyline has epic scope yet an intimate feel, pulling readers along familiar paths but in a manner that doesn’t seem forced. The dialogue is a little stylized but mostly quite natural. Even though the tale in this first book is as much about Arthengal as Darius, fans of the genre will find a comfortable familiarity in this mentoring phase of the teen’s journey. This skillful story bodes well for future adventures.

 A conventional but well-rendered take on quest fantasy’s master-apprentice trope.

Pub Date: July 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73395-250-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: JDR Publishers

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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