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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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