An expansive, edgy genre piece whose earnest familial theme shines.

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TO NURTURE & KILL

In this prequel installment of Markoff’s (The Deadbringer, 2016) fantasy series, a mercenary protects his young nephew, a member of a despised, largely decimated people, from operatives who wish to kill him.

Eutau Vidal made a promise to his sister that he would look after her son, Kira, before she died in labor. Taking care of Kira entails typical child-rearing duties, such as ensuring that he’s well-fed and warm, but also involves concealing Kira’s gray skin—the sign that he’s part of a race called Deadbringers. Kira’s skin rots everything it touches, save for Eutau. In the land of Moenda, the Ascendancy united all the myriad races under one power, while also initiating the Purging against Deadbringers, who, among other things, can bring the dead back to life. Although the South is predominantly free of Deadbringers, Sanctifiers continue to search for any that remain in hiding. Eutau keeps Kira close and helps him overcome his fear of spirits that only he can see and hear. The two encounter an amiable soul, J’kara, and later join her in her home city of Florinia, where a lack of Deadbringers has begotten far-less-cautious Ascendancy members. But Eutau soon craves the freedom he once had in his mercenary days. Markoff’s novella, which takes place 15 years prior to the events of her previous book, is a laudable series forerunner, but also works well as a stand-alone work. It’s impressive how much information is packed into the short tale, including background on the Purging and the traits of various peoples, such as the horns and talons of the Ro’Erden, and Eutau’s pupil-less eyes. Nevertheless, the uncle-nephew bond is the story’s strongest quality; ever protective Eutau is perfectly suited to the father figure role, even if he occasionally regrets his pledge to his sister. Kira, meanwhile, tackles mundane obstacles (such as when his peers call his skin ugly) as well as supernatural ones, all in endearing, phonetic speech: “I pwomise, I’ll be good,” he assures Eutau.

An expansive, edgy genre piece whose earnest familial theme shines.

Pub Date: April 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9971951-3-2

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Tomes & Coffee Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2017

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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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