This vivid and gripping supernatural tale about a daring fighter grows more somber and complex as it builds.

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Cleansed

From the The True Tree Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A fantasy novel focuses on a young warrior caught up in an epic clash of bloodthirsty ancient gods.

The latest book from Scott (Sorrow’s Heart, 2016), the first in a projected series, begins in the cramped, squalid, violent slum called the Slaag in the city of Tuilar in a land ruled by and terrorized by the Lord of Chaos and his mortal minions. This dark god visits localized chaos-storms at random on the ordinary people of this world. They have to contend not only with the tempests, but also with grunkins, the fearsome creatures who spawn in the storms’ aftermath. These high-fantasy dangers are distant from the desperate, hand-to-mouth existence of young Dirge and his mother, who are trying to eke out a living in the Slaag. But when Dirge finds his mother dead in an alley one night, his childhood abruptly ends (after that, readers are told: “He didn’t laugh. He didn’t cry. He simply didn’t care anymore”). A kindly tavern owner named Katlyn takes him in, and he comes under the tutelage of one of her bouncers, Talic Sern, who soon reveals himself to be far more than mere hired muscle. He’s a member of the Brotherhood of Assassins, which serves the death god Aza’zel by carrying out divinely sanctioned murder contracts. With Talic’s help, Dirge grows into a young man skilled in the ways of combat, but despite the bonds of friendship between his teachers and himself, he feels ill at ease. Increasingly, he becomes drawn to the service of another supernatural being, the old, forgotten god Ukase. When Dirge breaks with the Brotherhood and strikes out on his own, Scott effectively broadens the previously narrow setting of his story as he follows his up-from-nothing main character into various military adventures in a world being torn apart by warring deities. On this new path, the novel’s dynamic hero faces difficult choices, including whether to lead Ukase’s warriors (“His whole life, Dirge had only dreamt of being a part of something.…It was why leaving the Brotherhood was so torturous. He’d never thought—never wanted—to lead anyone”). Fans of John Marco and R. Scott Bakker should gladly welcome a first-rate author to their ranks—and should be happy to see the words “to be continued” at the close of this book.

This vivid and gripping supernatural tale about a daring fighter grows more somber and complex as it builds.

Pub Date: July 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-67812-1

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Blue Deco Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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