RACE OF SCORPIONS

THE THIRD BOOK OF THE HOUSE OF NICCOLO

Book three of the series of Dunnett's mercantile adventures—which began with Niccolo Rising (1986) and continued in The Spring of the Ram (1988)—features hero. entrepreneur Nicholas (Niccolo) vander Poele's participation in a battle for the throne of Cyprus. Niccolo, the one-time dye-shop apprentice who bested the Borgias at 18 and conquered the Turks at 19, is now a wealthy 21-year-old widower in the year 1462. His beloved wife died while he was fighting the Turks and making his fortune, his stepchildren have locked him out of the family business, and he and his private army are the target of multiple conspiracies. On top of this, both contenders for the throne of Cyprus—Queen Carlotta, backed by the Venetians and the Pope, and Carlotta's illegitimate brother, James, a usurper allied with the Genoans—are demanding Niccolo's support, while an army of Egyptian mercenaries seeks an agenda all its own. The ensuing war is a complicated one, involving a conspiratorial concubine, a love-besotted maid, assorted murders, a number of epic battles, a horrendous siege, and one Machiavellian plot after another. Despite being kidnapped, tortured, tempted by the promise of untold riches, threatened with financial ruin and with death, Niccolo keeps his head and—through courage and cunning—manages to place the crown of Cyprus on the ruler of his choice. Throughout, Dunnett's exhaustively researched 15th-century characters and settings prove excitingly real in this story of an era when making a fortune wasn't just a job, but an adventure. Fabulous fare for all lovers of historical intrigue.

Pub Date: May 2, 1990

ISBN: 0375704795

Page Count: 820

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1990

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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