A fantasy in which good-natured heroes drift through one battle too many.

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RISE OF CENTURIA

This sequel sees the champions of Palatovia fight a power-hungry lord on multiple fronts.

The city of Centuria has been destroyed. Lord Emalf, aided by vast demonic hordes, still searches for several artifacts that will help him rule the world of Palatovia. One of those relics, the Book of Stars, is in 10-year-old Ptolemy’s possession. But the boy wizard is aboard an airship piloted by Pepper, a former Centurian warrior. When a dragon attacks the ship, Ptolemy falls to the woods below. Back in the rubble of Centuria, Gen. Gathar leads a team in search of survivors. The only one the band locates is Nydraia, one of the water-wielding nes kaliba. The general and his group head to the neighboring kingdom of Salidon to learn more about their own missing King Katimi. Meanwhile, Ptolemy ends up in the care of the lagartos (a lizard people). Their elder, Krangalson, reminds the boy that “the stars tell us many things. They can point us in the right direction and…lead us down terrible paths.” Ptolemy later reunites with his father, Gen Gathar, and the brave band in the city of Chugean. There, a magical table combines with the Book of Stars to reveal that the key to Lord Emalf’s defeat lies in the catacombs beneath Centuria. In this action-oriented fantasy novel, Harris (Fall of Centuria, 2015) and debut author Creedon continue fleshing out vivid characters and places, such as King Roberts of Salidon and the eclectic Chugean, which allows readers to breathe between battle sequences. Some concepts are fascinating enough to warrant more exploration than they receive, like the table “made from a world tree” that “soaks in all information that occurs in the natural world.” The main plot paints good and evil in black-and-white terms, leaving little room for nuance aside from “we shall not let our enemies control us. Chugean has a race planned next week and that race will happen.” The clashes, which feature everything from sea monsters to giant spiders, are imaginatively conceived but a touch overwrought. The narrative glides in for a predictably happy ending.

A fantasy in which good-natured heroes drift through one battle too many.

Pub Date: June 10, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 241

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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