A gripping saga that reimagines a storied villain as a complex, sympathetic anti-hero.

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EADRIC THE GRASPER

SONS OF MERCIA VOL. 1

In this historical epic based on a real-life medieval rogue, a cunning young man rises through treachery—or is it statesmanship?—in an England beset by Viking invasions.

Teenage swineherd Eadric has no aim in life other than wooing scullery maids, but he has a quick wit that somehow lands him an audience with King Ethelred the Unready, and a silver tongue that thoughtlessly precipitates a massacre of troublesome Danish Viking immigrants. Eadric feels guilty, but in the year 1002 an overactive conscience doesn’t help you get ahead. Eadric does other small favors for Ethelred, such as assassinating an inconvenient nobleman who could be his uncle, and wins the sobriquet “Grasper” by using forged charters to steal land from monasteries. Soon he’s lord of all Mercia and married to the king’s ravishing daughter Aydith. Their love is strained by fresh Danish raiders, who make an almost yearly habit of slaughtering and pillaging their way through the English countryside. The ever pragmatic Eadric, who counts blood-soaked über-Viking Thorkel the Tall among his friends, favors buying off the Norsemen with Danegeld tribute—or even surrendering to the rampaging Danish prince Canute, whose ruthlessness Eadric hopes will bring stability and peace. Aydith, a spitfire patriot with a head for military strategy, seethes at her pusillanimous husband, who thinks she might be in league—or in love—with the masked English hero known as the Golden Cross. In the debut of her Sons of Mercia series, Woods tells a ripped-from-the-chronicles story—most of the characters and major events are factual—with an entertaining blend of period realism and Zorro-ish dazzle. She brings to life the violence and skullduggery of the age in exciting scenes of action and intrigue, while vividly rendering the mindsets and motives of this distant era. Her Eadric is a fascinating figure, an amoral yet sensitive man in a chaotic world, trying desperately, and not always successfully, to tame hot passions with cold calculation.

A gripping saga that reimagines a storied villain as a complex, sympathetic anti-hero.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 9781452862866

Page Count: 408

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2010

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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