Dynamic characters choose sides on the battlefield and in their hearts, aptly setting the stage for the next book.


Half Mortal

From the Daughter of Light series , Vol. 2

In this second installment of a YA fantasy series, a half faerie must decide whether incarnating a wicked entity will stop a fiendish princess from seizing the throne in the Realm of Faerie.

Now that Gray-Faerie regent Elendah is dead, war between the Dark and Light in the enchanted world is imminent. Princess Lilliane convinces Queen Luisa that the Albiana lineage is a threat to the throne—specifically, half mortals like Melia. The genuine threat is Umbra, a bodiless being in need of a willing vessel and who’s already failed in swaying Melia. Her sisters and cousin Gabriela, however, may be in danger, so Melia traverses the mortal world to warn them. Flora, the last of the spring faeries, later makes a startling proposition—Melia should voluntarily incarnate Umbra. If the half faerie can learn to control Umbra, she’ll be a formidable opponent to Lilliane, who’s garnered power as a practitioner of black magic. Melia doesn’t get much encouragement from maybe love interest and priest Ryder, worried that the entity will kill her. But she also has competition for the role of vessel, ranging from dragonwitch Sevondi to young Jade, Gabriela’s granddaughter, whom Umbra seems to target. Interested parties may need to steal a magical sword and basin for the incarnation, while Melia will have to elude an assassin Lilliane sends after Jade. Despite teasing a Dark/Light confrontation, this sequel to Half Faerie (2014) is really a struggle over who will embody Umbra. Both Sevondi and Jade fight for the opportunity, the latter believing Umbra’s chosen her and who further sparks a delightful romantic entanglement by adhering herself to Ryder. Dialogue-laden scenes have surprising momentum, with characters generally discussing strategy, and Umbra telepathically relaying to Flora his intention to destroy the Whole (all known worlds). Mortal-world inhabitant Jade’s cynical self-awareness, meanwhile, adds humor. Anticipating her rescue when captured, she muses: “Isn’t that what happened in the enchanted world? Damsels in distress and all.” A climactic war in Faerie is saved for a subsequent volume, but Garrett (Isolt’s Enchantment, 2015, etc.) wraps up this entry satisfactorily, with a bloody skirmish, some deaths, and a reunited family.

Dynamic characters choose sides on the battlefield and in their hearts, aptly setting the stage for the next book.

Pub Date: July 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9907691-3-2

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Half-Faerie Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 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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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.


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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