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DEMON OF THE BLACK GATE

An uncomplicated fantasy plot allows a remarkable world and vibrant characters to shine.

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A blind woman grows close to a demon as she helps him evade a wizard’s control in Scherzinger’s (The Henna Witch, 2019, etc.) fantasy novel. 

In the imperial city of Abbysin, wizard Rovinkar convinces Imperial Chancellor Chenli Menthra that he, Rovinkar, can destroy the impenetrable Black Gate. This barrier may be the only thing preventing the Abbysin Empire from conquering other lands. Rovinkar summons an elemental demon to destroy the gate, but when he momentarily loses control, the demon escapes. The demon ultimately encounters Cerra, a woman who lost her eyesight when she was a child. Cerra sees the demon as a man “in her mind’s eye,” which seemingly breaks the demon from Rovinkar’s spell. The wizard hears of Cerra’s apparent powers and sends a mercenary after her. The demon, meanwhile, wants to find Rovinkar to ensure that he’s completely free of the wizard’s hold and won’t return to the black Void, where he’d resided for an immeasurable time. The demon takes Cerra with him on a journey to Abbysin, along with Cerra’s trusty horse, Sugar, and cat, Kamir. The woman and demon bond during their trek, but later, someone, or something, manages to separate them. Scherzinger deftly combines detailed worldbuilding with a simple story that’s centered on a mere handful of characters. Cerra is an exceptional protagonist; although she has clear superpowers, such as a telepathic link with the demon, they’re largely kept ambiguous. In fact, in one instance, Rovinkar is fearful of a power that readers already know that Cerra doesn’t have (and that, hilariously, involves her cat). The narrative also revels in pithy but vivid descriptions of the environment: “The passing of the great wave roiled the loose silts of the riverbed and boiled the water with great gulps of air shoved into the depths.”

An uncomplicated fantasy plot allows a remarkable world and vibrant characters to shine.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73246-843-6

Page Count: 446

Publisher: Blue Rune Publications

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2020

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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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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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