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

DEMIGOD RISING

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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