An engrossing SF/fantasy that breathes new life into old tropes.

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THE UNMARKED GIRL

From the YaraStar Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A debut YA novel sees a teen girl fight for acceptance in a world of ingrained prejudice.

The planet Mira is home to two races—the sun-dwelling Photaks and the light-averse Skotads. Sixteen-year-old Yara is a Photak, but unlike the rest of her tribe, she has no birth markings. She was found as a baby in the Greens, a shadowy realm where no Photak can remain long without falling to Light Blindness. Yara can live in the light so she cannot be a Skotad. Yet she can never be a true Photak either. Taken reluctantly into the tribe, she has remained an outsider to be shunned, feared, and despised. Her adoptive parents love her, as do the younger children, but apart from them, only Kristos, the Chief’s son, truly accepts her. Yara is training to be a warrior with Kristos. Driven by the need to prove herself, she has become second to none in both the Photak fighting techniques and her own secretly developed style that is “notoriously difficult to predict” (“The offbeat moves came with their own rhythm, and from an outsider’s perspective, it looked like a dangerous, deadly dance”). On the Day of the Calling, Yara is chosen from all of the graduating trainees to defend the tribe in a ritual combat known as the inner fight. It’s her proudest moment, yet even in victory she faces disaster. For, unbeknown to Yara, her secret style mirrors that of the Skotads. Suddenly all of the tribe’s doubts come flooding back. With even Kristos now having second thoughts about her, Yara flees into the Greens—and meets a Skotad hunter who makes her question everything she’s been taught to believe. Frontin writes in the third person, mostly from Yara’s point of view, and quickly constructs an effortless blend of SF scenario, social allegory, and YA coming-of-age adventure. The prose is simple but effective, and the dialogue functional (although some of the monologues are a bit strained). But it is through characterization that the story soars. The plot spirals upward through broadly predictable yet still personal and distinctive patterns on the back of its character moments. As the first installment of a trilogy, the book lacks closure. Nevertheless, Frontin establishes Yara as a protagonist to follow and herself as an author to watch.

An engrossing SF/fantasy that breathes new life into old tropes.

Pub Date: June 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-976-8255-76-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Mark Made Group

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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