This intense young-adult epic pits a group of teens against demons, deities and the forces of nature.
Vineyard’s (Setting Up Your Shots, 2008) first novel brims with mythic power without forgetting the contemporary world. After their new friend, Nayana, disappears into a strange portal with a dark abductor, lifelong friends Masha and Thomas stumble upon a mysterious land where great heroes and deities are preparing for a world-shaking battle. Behind them follows Vanya, Masha’s uncle, an expert lock picker (locks recur as a leitmotif in the novel). A host of friends and enemies awaits the transplants, from wanted-thief Samuel Windspring to Irkalla, queen of storms. The friends quickly find Nayana, but the way home remains unclear, their destinies now bound to the gathering war with the Asuras—the demonic forces of Yama, lord of death. The group searches for a living weapon known as a Deva, which can perhaps defeat the Asura threat, as they traverse exotic locales on their journey, including Baudas, city of knowledge, and the Meadow Infinite. Many of the beings they encounter emerge directly from Vedic mythology and the Mahabharata, the Hindu lore that serves as excellent source material for a story about epic clashes. For a relatively short novel, the plot’s velocity is dizzying at times, but Vineyard packs in an abundance of characters and background. With so much happening, he rarely has time to slow down and describe the magical world’s landscape. Occasional flashbacks to the ancient past dot the narrative, but their abruptness and lack of clarification sometimes confuse rather than illuminate the story, even though Vineyard’s lyrical style will keep readers consistently engaged. Further chapters could allow this world to more fully unfold; in the meantime, however, this superb read provides a powerful adventure.
Deep myths and thrilling magic that will excite young readers.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.