THE KNIGHT & THE SERPENT

A LEGEND OF MEDIEVAL NORMANDY

A squire pursues fortune, fame and the woman he loves—at any cost.

Gabourel’s medieval tale follows the adventures of Gaspard, who serves the up-and-coming Lord Fulk from the Castle de Hambie in Normandy. The two grow up more like close friends than as lord and squire; indeed, Gaspard’s esteem proves much higher than the average man of his rank. Despite numerous opportunities to rise in stature, Gaspard stays by Lord Fulk—that is, until the latter takes the beautiful Gisla as his wife, prompting Gaspard to jealousy. Growing increasingly antagonistic toward Lord Fulk, Gaspard eventually betrays him in a moment of critical political importance. His deeds haunt him, and those he loves, throughout the remainder of the novel. Beyond its inclusion of the mainstay themes of medieval literature, Gabourel’s tale maintains an overall healthy balance of action and reflection. Gaspard does not come across as a clichéd relic of times past; his complexity holds the novel together at its weakest points. In particular, for all the depth Gaspard’s character has, the novel does not adequately depict his transition from admiration to animus toward Lord Fulk. On the contrary, one comes away wishing that the plot spent more time building up toward the fateful climax. Beside issues of plot, the dialogue often comes off as too self-aware, not as authentic medieval speak but rather as imitation. These instances tend to stultify the action, particularly because a few scenes try much harder than others to ape medieval dialect. These criticisms aside, any reader looking for a quick, easy read brimming with violence and romance will be satisfied with Gabourel’s work. While this novel does not contain many surprises, its eagerness and heart rewards its audience in the end. A legend of the Middle Ages bound to please most readers.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0984134427

Page Count: 318

Publisher: John Gabourel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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