A big, baggy book that will appeal to only the most passionate ancient Egypt buffs.




Class warfare and women’s liberation come to ancient Egypt in Stovall’s (Cassandra’s Curse, 2010) new historical fiction.

In ancient Egypt, the ruling religious and political forces rely on the separation of classes as the bulwark of their power. It’s heresy, for instance, to teach commoners that they may have any lot in life other than to serve the pharaoh. Senen-Mut is a commoner—a wealthy, promising young man, but a commoner nonetheless. Yet he catches the eye of the local leader and is chosen to study at the Royal School. There, he and young Princess Hat-Shep-Sut fall in love and begin a complex relationship that ties them together for the rest of their lives. Hat-Shep-Sut ascends to the pharaoh’s throne, vexing the conservative leaders, and Senen-Mut rises on to an illustrious military career. Meanwhile, Egypt is in a state of war, constantly defending and redefining its borders. Stovall draws deeply on historical sources to tell his story, set more than 3,000 years ago during Egypt’s 18th dynasty. (Hat-Shep-Sut and Senen-Mut are real historical figures, and historians have speculated on their romantic relationship). Unfortunately, storytelling itself often plays second fiddle to historical detail, turning what must have been very exciting lives into a rather tedious read. Characters sometimes act with very little motivation beyond historical necessity, and they fade in and out of the story, making it easy to forget the main story arc. Senen-Mut and Hat-Shep-Sut even disappear from the narrative for long stretches. This long, rangy book covers decades of action, but it’s oddly paced, often covering far too much ground in short, choppy paragraphs. Beyond the structure, there’s a desperate need for copy editing, with persistent punctuation, grammatical and spelling errors, as well as the odd but consistent italicization of certain proper names. A disciplined editor could help bring this epic story to life.

A big, baggy book that will appeal to only the most passionate ancient Egypt buffs.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479344895

Page Count: 370

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

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It’s 1949, and 13-year-old Francine Green lives in “the land of ‘Sit down, Francine’ and ‘Be quiet, Francine’ ” at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles. When she meets Sophie Bowman and her father, she’s encouraged to think about issues in the news: the atomic bomb, peace, communism and blacklisting. This is not a story about the McCarthy era so much as one about how one girl—who has been trained to be quiet and obedient by her school, family, church and culture—learns to speak up for herself. Cushman offers a fine sense of the times with such cultural references as President Truman, Hopalong Cassidy, Montgomery Clift, Lucky Strike, “duck and cover” and the Iron Curtain. The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage—a story that ought to send readers off to find out more about McCarthy, his witch-hunt and the First Amendment. Though not a happily-ever-after tale, it dramatizes how one person can stand up to unfairness, be it in front of Senate hearings or in the classroom. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more.


A monster spreads madness through the streets of Shanghai.

It is the autumn of 1926, and Shanghai is poised at the brink of transformation. Foreign powers have carved out portions of the city for themselves; what remains is divided between two feuding gangs, the Chinese Scarlet Gang and the Russian White Flowers. Eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai has returned home from New York City, wreathed in a reputation for ruthlessness and ready to step into her role as heir to the Scarlet Gang. Four years ago, a betrayal by the White Flowers heir, Roma Montagov, a young man of 19, led to the deaths of countless Scarlets, and Juliette is determined to avenge her gang. But when a lethal contagion strikes the city, targeting Scarlets and White Flowers alike, Juliette and Roma grudgingly agree to cooperate on an investigation in order to save their city. The slow-burning romance in this book takes a back seat to the gripping mystery grounded in immersive historical detail. Allusions to Romeo and Juliet are evident in names and specific scenes, but familiar themes of family, loyalty, and identity bear new significance in Gong’s inventive adaptation. Language is a tool wielded deftly by the multilingual characters, who switch easily among English, French, Shanghainese, Russian, and more, with Mandarin as the primary dialect for Chinese phrases. A strong supporting cast that includes a trans girl completes this striking debut.

A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5769-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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