A brisk and readable fantasy tale that casts a familiar spell.


From the Song of the Gods series , Vol. 1

In this first YA fantasy novel in a series, Forrester (Empire Awakening, 2018, etc.) tells the story of a teen warrior-in-training searching for his family members across a magical realm.

Fifteen-year-old twin brothers Jeno and Chiro are students at Castle Maarn, where their father, Gen. Thanadol, sent them to be trained as rangers by the priests of the god Tanir. One night, the twins awaken after having a nightmare about their mother—from whom their father took them away at age 4; in it, she’s enslaved by an evil wizard in the magical Realm of Sosaram. Jeno shrugs it off and goes back to sleep, but Chiro sneaks away to enter a nearby cave that, according to a gnome they recently met, separates their world from Sosaram. As Jeno angrily rushes to catch up with Chiro, he thinks that “His brother must be out of his mind or afflicted by some charm. Every righteous human knew that magical creatures tricked mortals down paths leading to their doom. It was a core tenet of their faith.” Jeno steps through the portal and is transported to a beautiful world of forests and flowers, although he knows that he must be careful not to be corrupted by its magic. Sosaram proves to be more than just picturesque gardens, however; it’s also a land that’s suffering from war and blight, where elves and dwarves worship ancient gods, and dragons rule the skies. With the help of his best friend (and secret crush) Freyia, as well as some new acquaintances, Jeno pursues his sibling across the dynamic landscape. It later turns out that Sosaram has many surprises in store for Jeno, including one involving his mother that will change everything that he believed about his religion—and about himself. Forrester’s prose is spirited and propulsive, ensuring that readers feel the same thrills and scares that his characters do: “It was a dragon…gazing directly at him. He could feel a faint pressure in his mind, something reaching, something pushing, something calling out to him. The sensation was maddening.” In terms of worldbuilding, characters, and plot, the novel stays in the familiar territory of sword-and-sorcery fantasy, with the requisite YA concerns of parentage and responsibility. Jeno is a bit of a spoilsport, but the supporting cast—including the aforementioned Freyia; Shani, a wood-elf healer who’s willing to cut off her own finger to save a stranger; and Karn, a loudly dressed half elf known as the “king of these streets”—provides more enjoyable companionship. The religious angle, which pits the magical polytheism of Sosaram against the anti-magic monotheism of Jeno’s world, adds another layer of tension, but it’ll be easy for readers to predict the outcome of that struggle. The breakneck pacing, after the exposition-choked opening chapter, consistently pulls readers forward and quickly immerses them in the world’s politics and conflicts. Aficionados of YA fantasy should enjoy this offering and the sequels that are sure to follow.

A brisk and readable fantasy tale that casts a familiar spell.

Pub Date: April 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-09-160682-1

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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