While it shows potential, this tale lays the groundwork for future installments instead of delivering a rousing adventure.

The Buried Symbol

From the The Runes of Issalia series , Vol. 1

A poor young man strives to rise above his station in a rigid society stratified into strict castes in this debut fantasy novel, the first in The Runes of Issalia series.

In Brock Talenz’s world, how much control people have over their lives is determined by whether they are granted a rune at a young age, defining them as one of the upper classes. Unfortunately for Brock, he belongs to the Unchosen, namely the lowest level of society, with no hope for upward mobility. After his beloved aunt dies of an illness the same day he was finally able to get her a doctor by stealing enough money to pay for the visit, Brock decides he has had enough. He goes to a man who gives him a counterfeit rune and then sets off with his best friend, Tipper, and a few others on the long journey to the Academy, where all of the upper echelons of this realm are trained. Along the way, Brock discovers he possesses strange powers when a banshee kills one of his companions and he manages to temporarily revive the corpse. Once Brock finally arrives at the Academy, he begins his education and discovers some buried truths that could threaten to unravel the Empire. Brock is by far the strongest element of Kohanek’s novel. Sharply drawn, natural, and sympathetic, the protagonist grounds the narrative, even amid its fantasy trappings. Neither the plot nor the world he inhabits is the genre’s most original, but both are solid, initially promising a sturdy foundation for a series. But at the same time, an overabundance of exposition weighs down this first installment, particularly once Brock reaches the school. What was a fairly exciting quest story suddenly gets bogged down in classroom minutiae, like Hogwarts without the whimsy, fun, and true sense of danger. After all of that, the book ends abruptly, revealing itself to have simply been a setup for sequels, with no emotional resolution or payoff.

While it shows potential, this tale lays the groundwork for future installments instead of delivering a rousing adventure.

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61296-692-2

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2016

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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