Laudable characters and striking exposition give this world a grand introduction.

TEARS FROM IRON

From the Memories of the Cataclysm series , Vol. 1

In this fantasy debut, a warrior on a mission to infiltrate a band of rebels begins to empathize with his targets.

In the world of Isfalinis, Vistus belongs to the t’Okaedrin, human warriors for the Kayrstaran Empire. T’Okaedrin serve the Syraestari, who are beings that live for thousands of years. But some humans, such as the Scions of the Fallen Tree, openly defy the Syraestari. The Scions make concerted efforts to liberate and recruit the Kalilaer, the Syraestari’s human laborers. The Scions consider these workers slaves. In response, Syraestari High Lord Tazil drafts Vistus to pose as a Kalilaer escapee and ultimately lead the t’Okaedrin to a Scion camp. Though the assignment is moderately successful, Tazil wants Vistus to go deeper: live among the Kalilaer to locate more camps and identify Scion leaders. Meanwhile, Ninanna, a Sword-Whisperer and essentially Empress Kayrstana’s bodyguard, is a Syraestari outcast since she sees humans as equals. Accordingly, the mysterious Shadow-Servant approaches Ninanna with a plan he derived from a prophecy: Further conflict in Isfalinis can be avoided by the Syraestari isolating themselves and leaving humans alone. Though the prophecy’s wording is vague, it seemingly warns against the Syraestari’s dominion and references an individual whom the Shadow-Servant believes is Vistus. As a Kalilaer and under the alias Belarrin, Vistus, along with other laborers, endures abuse, even from his t’Okaedrin “brothers.” He quickly befriends Kalilaer and Scions, later learning that, in connection with the prophecy, he may have an extraordinary ability of which he’s never been aware. Oldenburg’s painstakingly detailed world sets a solid foundation for his series opener. For example, long ago, one of the Etyni (firstborn of Isfalinis creator His Highest Above) rebelled and precipitated the Great War. The Etyni’s deaths, in turn, created the Cataclysm, a series of natural disasters that still affect characters in the present-day narrative. Vistus is a perpetually conflicted protagonist: He’s loyal to the Syraestari, whom he believes are “wiser and stronger” than humans, but also tormented by some of the Scions he’s killed in servitude. The narrative even takes to calling him “Belarrin” when he’s on a mission, differentiating his compassionate alter ego from Vistus and the t’Okaedrin life he’s beginning to doubt. As such, he garners sympathy when he’s with the Kalilaer and Scions. A female Scion named Sravika, whom Belarrin grows close to, becomes an obvious love interest. The story boasts ample mystery, primarily through possibly shady characters, like the Shadow-Servant. Ninanna has trouble trusting the enigmatic character, while Belarrin is certain Shadow-Servants are killers. In the same vein, there are dubious goings-on among the Syraestari and t’Okaedrin as well; several high lords are clearly plotting something against the empress. Despite the book’s length (over 800 pages), the author’s rich descriptions are often concise: “The thunder and lightning roared to the tempo of Belarrin’s nightmares until a final crash wrenched him to wakefulness.” Although this novel is the first installment of an epic series, its thorough resolution makes it a stand-alone.

Laudable characters and striking exposition give this world a grand introduction.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-941956-22-9

Page Count: 826

Publisher: Autarch LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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