Fabulously layered mythmaking.

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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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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