A graphic, detailed, and engaging novel set during the rise of the Roman Empire.

SNAKE OF THE NILE

Jackson’s historical novel interweaves stories about Kleopatra and company.

In Egypte, 10-year-old Kleopatra must endure all the rituals and ceremonies that a princess is required to attend, at least until she is allowed to escape the boring events and play with her best friend, Akela, and some of her siblings. Kleopatra knows so little of the world outside the palace and the royal family, her biggest worry is upsetting her father, the Pharaoh Ptolemy XII Auletes or earning the wrath of her mean sister, Arsinoe. Across the sea in Roma, Julius and his troops are finishing the crucifixions of the over 6,000 rebels that dared to rise up against Mother Rome. Little do they know that only a short distance away, Valeria is on the run with her son Vitus, the son of Spartacus, trying to make it to a ship to escape before her boy is discovered and punished for his father’s rebellion. In Greece, the 16-year-old Spartan princess Chrysanthe has been captured by the Kretos King Athanasios. He plans to marry her off to his brother, who is supposedly as abusive and monstrous as the rest of them. In Myria, Bremusa and Euryleia, two members of the Amazon nation, talk of fighting for their sisters and their collective survival. Jackson ably weaves together multiple storylines and takes readers into the heart of an ancient world, highlighting women’s journeys and struggles as they fight to rise to the top. Here, readers will see a different side of well-known figures, and Jackson does a thorough and accurate job of animating the characters and their homelands. Gory violence and unsanitary habits are portrayed in full detail. This is the first in a promising, immersive series.

A graphic, detailed, and engaging novel set during the rise of the Roman Empire.

Pub Date: May 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-03-913249-8

Page Count: 297

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2022

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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