A fine fantasy novel that will provide readers with a good weekend escape from reality.



Doty (When Dead Ain’t Enough, 2012, etc.) conjures a magical world of witches, wizards and war in this high-energy first installment of an epic-fantasy series.

This dark tale charges out of the gate as Rat—a street orphan about 6 or 7 years old—runs through a medieval marketplace with his “one good eye” fixed on an unsuspecting man’s purse of coins. Little Rat, covered with diseased sores and clothed in filthy rags, survives by hiding and stealing whatever he can. When Rat successfully steals the purse, angry market vendors chase him into a one-way alley, where he hides in the shadows. Unbeknownst to Rat, his hiding skill is a form of magic that allows him to wrap shadows around himself. Enter Lord Roland, a respected and feared clan witch, who is impressed by Rat’s magical potential. He stops the mob from hurting the raggedy Rat and takes him to his castle, the House of Elhiyne, where he and his wife, AnnaRail, eventually adopt him as a son. Rat is renamed Morgin, and he often butts heads with his powerful grandmother, the witch Olivia. She and Roland school him in the art of magic and swordsmanship over several years. After an ancient ancestral conflict between clans leads to war, the adult Morgin has an argument with Olivia, and she banishes him from Elhiyne; nonetheless, he vows to fight to save his family. While the book’s minor characters can be a bit clichéd (a beautiful blonde angel helps Morgin), most of the main characters are well-rounded and have human emotions; for example, the fearsome old Olivia is shown to have a soft spot in her heart for family. Meanwhile, Morgin’s struggles as he deals with his own fears make him a very sympathetic hero. Readers who like action will find gruesome battle scenes reminiscent of The Iliad, with much death and hacking of body parts. A romantic subplot between Morgin and his beautiful wife, Rhianne, while intriguing, doesn’t overwhelm the action. However, the history of the different clans can be confusing, and the ending contains some unresolved issues, which may disappoint some readers. That said, the conclusion carefully props open the door for the author’s next chapter.

A fine fantasy novel that will provide readers with a good weekend escape from reality.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-1938701887

Page Count: 422

Publisher: Telemachus Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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