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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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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