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Madoc's Legacy

A rollicking, rip-roaring novel, big and wild as the American frontier.

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Brawls and battles ensue when a trapping party encounters a weird tribe deep in the wilds of 19th-century Upper Michigan.

Swanson (Mesmer’s Disciple, 2012) returns with another work of historical fiction featuring tough-guy former patrolman Alvord Rawn. In Chicago in 1847, after being drummed out of New York for excessive violence, Rawn falls out with his double-crossing Chicago law enforcement superior and joins an ill-fated fur-trapping expedition to Upper Michigan with a motley crew of adventurers, including rough mountain men, a witty Irish immigrant and a nerdy scientist. Despite warnings from a tycoon named Cadwallader Jones and ominous Indian legends that their destination is protected by fearsome, copper-clad manitous, the group ventures deep into the wilderness. Soon enough, they’re attacked, but it turns out, their opponents bleed and aren’t gods after all; they’re men—a lost tribe of Welsh Indians descended from Madoc, a Welsh prince who immigrated to America in the 12th century. Hemmed in by advancing settlers, this tribe, like other natives, is just trying to survive, in this case by spinning fearsome legends and attacking interlopers. Buckets of blood spill throughout this tale, which ends happily for most and at least honorably for the dead and maimed who pile up on the losing end of the countless conflicts. Swanson bases his highly creative, action-packed novel on legend, backed by substantial historical research and acumen right down to the language, as florid as a 19th-century novel but as vigorous as a James Bond movie. Though glitches with writing mechanics crop up often enough to be distracting, and the occasional cliché slips through, Swanson creates convincing portraits of the men and their times, capturing the raw, restless spirit of the age and place. His descriptions of the land and the characters peopling it are particularly acute—so much so that the constant brannigans and battles sometimes seem overdone and anticlimactic. But this is a digestible and enjoyable fleshing out of a legend and setting often overlooked in the wide expanse of historical fiction.

A rollicking, rip-roaring novel, big and wild as the American frontier.

Pub Date: April 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1939739247

Page Count: 498

Publisher: RiverRun Select

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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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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