Fabulously layered mythmaking.

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Gryphon's Heir

THE ANNALS OF ARRINOR, BOOK 1

In this debut fantasy, a schoolteacher is thrust into a contest for a medieval throne.

In 1924, Rhissan “Rhiss” Griffith teaches English literature at the Darkton School. Though only 25, he feels that his life has become a joyless slog, except when he and confidant Alistair practice their swordsmanship and archery. One day, Rhiss notices a richly decorated door in the school where it shouldn’t be. Behind it is a librarylike setting where he soon meets someone named Brother Gavrilos. He commiserates with Rhiss on his plight and encourages him to choose a life of difficulty and adventure by entering a second door, opposite the first. Before leaving for the realm of Arrinor, where he’s to help the rightful King win back the Crystal Throne, Rhiss receives magical items, including the Circlet of Araxis and a matching dagger. Once through the portal, he saves a young gryphon from flying creatures called Malmoridai; he names the orphaned creature Aquilea. Soon he encounters the Sovereign’s Men, who are about to harm a mother and daughter. Rhiss dispatches the brigands, then miraculously heals the daughter’s mortal wound. Does some sort of spiritual magic flow through Rhiss? Debut author Ranshaw crafts a literary epic apparently inspired by grand classics such as T.H. White’s The Once and Future King (1958) and the poems of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. He sends Rhiss not only to find the King but to master himself spiritually (with the help of a woman named Arian) and make ethical choices in a world savaged by the corrupt Usurper. Ranshaw’s prose is sharp and absorbing, with characters often discussing every facet of a situation before taking action. Major events are preceded by plenty of traveling, but they are worth the wait (“A roiling wave of dense, grey mist advanced swiftly and silently across the Moor from the south, a wave hundreds of feet high”). A scene in which a legendary sword appears is truly breathtaking. Monotheism and gender equality also prove to be engaging themes, which will hopefully reappear in the sequel.

Fabulously layered mythmaking.

Pub Date: June 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4602-5763-0

Page Count: 360

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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