A romantic fantasy, ambitious as any Tolkien-inspired work, earnestly and thoughtfully delivered.

Denny’s novel, his first and the opener in his Book of Broken Bindings series, begins in the Vale, a quaint and simple place, with Mr. Edward T. Cozzlebottom recalling a fragmented dream on a sunny morning during a quickly descending autumn season. Descending, it will be learned, with unnatural rapidity through dark and mysterious intent. At this auspicious moment, unconventionally wise sometimes-adventurer Cozzlebottom (Cozy to his friends) embraces his feelings for his neighbor, the sweetly hermetic rose-enthusiast Ezmerelda Wimbish, and writes her a letter confessing his affection. The eve after it is written, Mizz Wimbish is overcome by a desire to travel, and departs, and the letter is stolen by an Iron Rider traveling in shadow on a metal steed. Discovering his love vanished without explanation, Cozy enlists his friend Eddy to secure her safety and both parties venture in different directions into the uncertainty of the Outlands, the Western Hills and the Great Dorianic Forest, all encircled by the high peaks of the Bruste Mountains—Denny wisely includes a map with his text—where they find the stuff of myths and children’s stories to be more fact than fable and discover themselves figures in “a battle for light and time itself.” Denny’s drama, both jaunty and frightening, is engaging and well-paced, and his characters are wholesome archetypes: deeply lovable, easily feared or anything in between. His airy writing style and sense of whimsy complement the book’s heavy mythology. There’s nearly always allegorical meaning to be drawn from the myriad encounters of his sojourners, and lessons learned are tempered not with irony or snark, but with the contentment that knowledge gained is relational, and particular to the peculiar men and women that populate Denny’s epic landscape. Some symbols, characters and scenarios are a little too familiar, and the book’s triumphs may seem forgone conclusions, but engaged readers will be charmed and entertained. Those who appreciate fanciful adventure fiction sincerely told will enjoy Denny’s work and look forward to the next installment.  


Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615451558

Page Count: 458

Publisher: Night Watch

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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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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