A tale of a general’s perilous mission for those who like their fantasy severe and realistic.

A Foreign Shore

RAIN OF FIRE, RAIN OF BLOOD

In this sequel, demons and unexplained magic disrupt lands already torn by war and an empire’s greed.

The city of Kafra, in Chatmakstan, has just been seized by the empire-building Akkadians. Prince Krion and his army parade on horseback through Heroes Square. Suddenly, flaming stones begin raining from the sky. When the assault ends, Krion consults with Gen. Singer and a Witch named Lamya, who blames fire demons from another plane of existence. As Krion commands her to learn more, he assigns Singer the mission of penetrating the southern desert of Berbat. Meanwhile, the Bandeluk soldier Raeesha believes she is pregnant with Singer’s child. She’s afraid to tell him, however, because it may cost him his military career and invite scorn from the man she loves. When he asks her to become an officer and train female soldiers, she grows upset and runs from his quarters. Outside, it begins raining blood. Hooded figures then kidnap Raeesha and bring her to Lamya. The Witch learns Raeesha’s connection to these odd events is her infection by a demon embryo. It must be excised before its power manifests in more dangerous ways. In this second volume of his series, Johnson (Clothes Make a Man, 2013) continues complex worldbuilding with inventive demons and tense tribal relations. Fiendish creations like the fui—reptilian humanoids hiding gruesome faces behind masks that remind Singer of the goddess Narina—are formidably unique. They aid Singer in his operation, and flesh out one of many parallel narratives, including the tracking of a spy ring, and the imprisoning of Singer’s former fiancee, Erika, in the Akkadian capital of Elohi. Yet taken together, these story threads convey lots of forward movement that never quite sweeps up readers emotionally. That the author’s world is reminiscent of the modern-day Middle East is tragic and undeniable; an old man tells Singer about his encamped soldiers, “You can stay there a hundred years if it pleases you.” A following volume may illuminate the Akkadian emperor’s plans.

A tale of a general’s perilous mission for those who like their fantasy severe and realistic.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-78428-0

Page Count: 296

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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