A remarkable fantasy series opener built on bold characters and startling real-world parallels.



In this fantasy, humanity has used technology to defeat several magical races, but total victory is not yet secure.

In the city of Silverfell, a man called Dryden visits the Silver Tongue tavern. There, beautiful elf women—and some men—sell their bodies alongside mugs of ale. Such is their plight after humanity used guns and mechanical might to defeat elves, orcs, and goblins almost a century ago in the Great War. Dryden meets Saya and Astanava, two elf women, while drinking. As he becomes hopelessly smitten with Astanava, he witnesses Earl Edard Kenton and his knights enter the tavern and harass Saya. Dryden’s secret—that he’s a Dartmoth prince traveling incognito—could halt the situation if asserted publicly. Instead, he attempts fisticuffs, which ends with him and Astanava landing in jail and Saya getting raped. Meanwhile, in the town of Osh, Fane Ganbaatar is an orc sheriff. Osh hosts the Book of Destiny in the temple complex of Issik Kul. The Book contains “a running list, thousands of pages long, of the...names of every person that would ever see the book, in chronological order.” One day, representatives of King Broderick Dartmoth come to inspect the Book. The endgame of Cole Wynton and his men is to confiscate and/or destroy all magical artifacts and weapons in Osh. Fane hopes to keep his enchanted ax a secret for as long as possible. And in the royal capital of Syerfordge, the king and his council plan to quell orc violence to the south once and for all—by firebombing the city of Angkor-Toll. In this dark series launch, Emrey (Millennium Stone, 2015, etc.) chooses a fertile time period, post–Great War, for the setting of his epic of heroism and race relations. As a royal, Dryden has access to era-specific technology, like a single-prop fighter plane and a Motor K automobile. He also has the privilege of springing himself from jail whereas the marginalized Astanava ends up at the mercy of Ser Dex Morton, a licentious prison warden. The author maximizes the scope of his narrative by having chapters follow Dryden, Astanava, and Fane down personalized alleys that converge after the stakes have risen. A humiliating flogging leads to Astanava’s accessing latent powers that Lt. Shpava, leader of an elf rebellion, deems invaluable. Angkor-Toll, once a hopeful city but now a ghetto, is filled with the downtrodden of every race. Blue and red fire dust, stand-ins for heroin and crack, have warped orc society and given King Broderick and his militant brother, Sawyer, their excuse for more war. Among the royal siblings, including Liliana, with whom Dryden is closest, only the globe-trotting prince argues that “dust is the problem,” not those addicted to it. Astanava’s transformation into a more empowered, if ghoulish, character is thrilling to behold. Fane and Dryden develop along entertaining, if slightly more predictable routes. Emrey’s greatest success lies in maintaining a shared spotlight for all three of his protagonists. On the verge of a second Great War, each character is poised to drive the sequel toward steeper dramatic heights.

A remarkable fantasy series opener built on bold characters and startling real-world parallels.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63393-845-8

Page Count: 434

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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

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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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...


 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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