A rousing fantasy sequel that allows the story to evolve while setting the stage for the final volume.

THE HUNT FOR THE THREE ROSES

From the Three Roses Trilogy series , Vol. 2

In this second installment of a trilogy, a mage apprentice and an ex-thief protect a special stranger while trying to dodge a vengeance-minded assassin.

Kane Bailey was once a nobleman and mage apprentice in the kingdom of Consaria. But the teenager became a fugitive after inciting King Hugo’s wrath by telling a clan leader, who was threatening Kane, about the enigmatic Three Roses. At the time, Kane didn’t know what the Roses were, only that the king was searching for them. Now he believes he’s found one of the three: simple-minded Jonas, who sports a rose tattoo. Kane’s belief is solidified when the apparently psychic Jonas warns Callie, a former thief Kane has befriended, that the mage apprentice will soon die. Callie intervenes, and Kane narrowly avoids a tragedy that leaves many others dead. The two, along with Jonas, later team up with sorcerer Master Cypher, who was Kane’s tutor back in Consaria. While fugitive Kane changes his name to Sean McAlister, the group gets assistance from Cypher’s acquaintance Count Guyver. Cypher also enlists Sean to ensure Jonas receives safe passage to the city of Asturia, though the sorcerer never confirms that the man is one of the Roses. Sean and Callie adjust to their new lives, he as an apprentice to another mage, she as Guyver’s retainer. But proficient assassin Rainer wants revenge against Callie, who once bested him in combat. He begins killing innocents in Asturia and makes it abundantly clear that Callie is his primary target. This stirring novel, picking up right where the fantasy series’ first installment left off, continues the titular arc while giving the characters plenty of room to grow. For example, Sean and Callie’s relationship gradually deepens and even entails possible romantic obstacles, such as “ruggedly handsome” Sir Barnes’ catching Callie’s eye. Moreover, Sean and Callie act as parental figures to Jonas, whom the narrative equates with a “preteen” who’s prone to complaints of boredom. There’s likewise progression regarding the Three Roses; readers will have more than an inkling as to their meaning before the book ends, and the explanation is both intriguing and unpredictable. In addition, certain subplots, such as a ballroom dance and a surprise poisoning, have discernible ties to the main plot and characters. Hubbard (The Legend of the Three Roses, 2017, etc.) deftly outfits his tale with appearances or references to various creatures both recognizable (unicorns and giant golems) and less so (undines, which are elementals with mastery over water). While the author implies much of the physical violence, the story is still generally dark. Rainer steadily becomes more relentless and intimidating, and he’s the reason Sean suffers a few losses. Nevertheless, dry humor occasionally alleviates the somberness. This often comes courtesy of Callie, who suggests Sean use his magic by commenting, “Can’t you just wiggle your fingers and make stuff happen?” And when Sean’s new master doesn’t seem interested in adequately training him, Callie offers to “pound some sense into him.”

A rousing fantasy sequel that allows the story to evolve while setting the stage for the final volume.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 404

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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