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

INFERNO DAWN

THE FINAL NAME

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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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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Soft-focus story moves right along with few surprises. This time around, Hannah avoids the soap-opera complications of her...

DISTANT SHORES

Another middle-aged mom in a muddle.

After years of false starts and big hopes, Elizabeth’s ruggedly handsome husband Jack, a former football star, just landed a spot as a sportscaster on national news. He still loves her, even though much younger women are giving him come-hither looks. Heck, he doesn’t want to betray the love of his life after she helped him kick drugs and stuck by him even when he was a struggling has-been. And won’t it seem hypocritical if he fools around with his sexy assistant while he does in-depth reporting on a rape case involving a famous basketball center? Well, he fools around anyway. Elizabeth, nicknamed Birdie, knows nothing of this, but she withdraws from Jack when her hard-drinking, salt-of-the-earth father has a stroke and dies. Now no one will call her “sugar beet” ever again. Time to return home to Tennessee and contend with Anita, the sort-of-evil stepmother so trashy she wears pink puffy slippers all day long. Naturally, it turns out that Anita actually has a heart of gold and knows a few things about Birdie’s dead mother that were hushed up for years. Mom was an artist, just like Birdie, and an old scandal comes to light as Anita unrolls a vibrant canvas that portrays her secret lover. Perhaps, Birdie muses, her mother died of heartbreak, never having followed her true love or developed her talent. Has she, too, compromised everything she holds dear? Hoping to find out, Birdie joins a support group that promises to reconnect confused women with their passion. She and Jack separate, prompting a how-dare-you fit from their grown daughters. Will Birdie fly her empty nest? Will she go back to college for a degree in art? Will her brooding watercolors ever sell?

Soft-focus story moves right along with few surprises. This time around, Hannah avoids the soap-opera complications of her previous tales (Summer Island, 2001, etc.).

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-345-45071-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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