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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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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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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