A fantasy series installment that effortlessly informs as it entertains.

DRAGON LAD

TALE OF THE TALISMAN

Stevens’ (Dragon Lad: The Thirteenth Egg, 2015) middle-grade fantasy sequel finds young Dirk searching for the truth about his past.

In Roman-ruled Britannia, Dirk looks like an average 12-year-old boy, but he actually hatched from a dragon’s egg just seven months ago. Leaving behind his friend, Galinda, on the island of Codhaven, Dirk is searching the lonely, mist-ridden lands for the home of Beldor, High Wizard of the West. At the wizard’s cave, he encounters Ydda, once a “grandmotherly female dragon” and now a human woman, as well as Beldor, who’s merged his consciousness with the dragon Fearclaw’s, with whom he shares a human body. Dirk reveals to them a blue stone talisman that may once have belonged to Gruffen, the Red Dragon of Greenwild. When the boy learns that Gruffen guards a horde of riches, he thinks that acquiring some of it will help him win the acceptance of Galinda’s family. Dirk also thinks that the old dragon may have information about his parents. To outfit this quest, Fearclaw provides the boy with a magical map and a ring that allows him to change between human and dragon forms. As Dirk heads north, he inadvertently loses the ring in the sea while in dragon form. Can he retrieve it and become human again before reaching the town of Isca, where humans may try to kill him? In this rollicking sequel, Stevens combines elements of real-life English history with a shape-shifting–oriented adventure for middle-grade readers. For example, Dirk witnesses the brutality of slavery as Roman soldiers lash Briton workers, but he also teams up with fanciful people such as Leonis, a sea lion who transforms into a human sea captain. Stevens often crafts casually amusing moments, as when Ethelda, the evil woman who raised Dirk, seemingly can’t remember his given name. The protagonist’s dreams and visions frequently guide the plot, which sometimes feels a bit heavy-handed. Still, Stevens’ warm black-and-white illustrations bolster important scenes, as when Dirk meets a mermaid, although truly surreal moments, such as one creature’s transformation from a fly to a dog, remain for audiences to imagine. A joyous ending leaves the cast on a fine footing for the next installment.

A fantasy series installment that effortlessly informs as it entertains.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9963839-3-6

Page Count: 242

Publisher: Dragon's Egg Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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