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


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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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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