A bevy of rich characters, plot twists, and possible paths for future books.

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The Deadbringer

From the The Ellderet Series series , Vol. 1

A teenage boy who’s able to summon souls and revive corpses flees with his uncle from those seeking to eliminate his kind in the first installment of debut author Markoff’s fantasy series.

Years ago, people in the Land of Moenda endured the Purging, in which the ruling members of the Ascendancy sent Sanctifiers to kill the powerful Deadbringers, who can bring dead people back to life. But although the Ascendancy has full power in the South, the Bastion controls the North, and its agents have been covertly protecting a surviving Deadbringer: 15-year-old Kira Vidal, who lives in the city of Opulancae, working as a mortician and headstone carver at his uncle Eutau’s funeral parlor. He’s also been helping Bastion agents track down a killer. That assistance, however, leads to an attack from a Kataru, an elite warrior, during which Kira is forced to defend himself by reanimating and commanding corpses. As a result, the Ascendancy gets wind of his existence, so Kira and Eutau go on the run. The Sanctifiers soon figure out Kira’s possible destination: the Southern city of Florinia. Meanwhile, a curious woman named Daemeon visits Kira in his dreams and offers him a guide for his arduous trek—a young girl named Teemo. Along the way, Kira learns several secrets, including a few life-changing ones that his uncle’s been keeping from him. In their travels, they encounter a motley batch of characters, including a wounded man named Lyse. Kira digests new information on Moenda history and the full extent of Deadbringers’ capabilities. Overall, Kira’s journey becomes more about discovery than outrunning Sanctifiers, and the author packs her novel with intrigue; for example, Kira suspects that maybe Teemo may be more than she seems. There are also shocking reveals, such as the fact that Eutau may know more about Kira’s long-gone father than he lets on. Perhaps best of all, Markoff’s setting is engagingly ambiguous—the specific year and exact location are unknown, giving the narrative a timeless quality. That, coupled with an impending Bastion/Ascendancy confrontation, should make the series’ next installment tempting for readers.

A bevy of rich characters, plot twists, and possible paths for future books.

Pub Date: May 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9971951-0-1

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Tomes & Coffee Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2016

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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