An intriguing, multifaceted story that needs polish.

THE ELIZABETHS

In this cross-dimensional novel, Mowery juxtaposes three versions of Elizabeth Ann Anderson, which differ by much more than haircut.

The month of June packs years’ worth of tension and shock for Liz, Beth and Eliza, each of whom resides in a beach house connected to her childhood. Shortly before each woman loses her past or present significant other, lengthy, unnatural soliloquies or forced flashbacks rattle off their details. Unfortunately, such infodumps, along with sentences lacking much-needed punctuation, detract from a potentially interesting story. Mowery gets the three stories time-coordinated via seemingly unrelated catalyzing events—Liz’s cherished husband, Peter, dies in a plane crash; Beth loses the love of her life, Maxine, to cancer; Eliza murders her philandering ex-husband and his lover (who was also Eliza’s friend), Peg. Eliza congratulates herself not only for failing to digest her daily dose of bipolar-disorder medication—a flub she credits with fueling her murderous act—but also for finding a scapegoat in the form of Peg’s cuckolded husband. She exonerates herself from guilt by promising to do good deeds—a mindset that’s difficult to empathize with. Moving along, Mowery weaves in the equally dramatic (though easier to accept) threads of Liz’s crash course in the secret identities of her deceased husband, as well as Beth’s benevolent intervention on behalf of her niece, a lesbian who recently outed herself. This novel’s intrigue lies in its core scenario: a single individual, traumatized early in life, branches into three women leading parallel lives in overlapping physical space but in distinct dimensions. As they’re meted out, mirrored details and events build suspense that pays off, but not to an impressive degree. In the unpolished narrative style, climactic moments suffer from inconsistent characterization of the Elizabeths and explanations developed in Elizabeth’s unprompted talks to herself. Whittled down to its bare-bones plot, the novel has potential, but for that potential to be realized, expository information needs to be seamlessly incorporated into the narrative, actions and words need to be consistent, and the narrative on the whole needs to be edited for clarity.

An intriguing, multifaceted story that needs polish.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1470077433

Page Count: 180

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2012

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A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.

FOR THE WOLF

Twin princesses—one fated to become a queen, the other a martyr—find themselves caught up in an unexpected battle of dark magic and ancient gods.

Four hundred years ago, a Valleydan princess facing a loveless betrothal sought refuge in the Wilderwood with her lover, the Wolf. The legendary Five Kings—including her father and her husband-to-be—pursued them only to be trapped in the Wilderwood. Now, according to legend, the only hope of restoring the Five Kings to power lies in the ritual sacrifice of every Second Daughter born to Valleyda's queen. There hasn't been a second daughter for 100 years—until now. On her 20th birthday, Redarys accepts her fate and walks into the Wilderwood to become the Wolf's next victim only to find that the stories she grew up on were lies. The handsome man who lives in a crumbling castle deep in the forest is not the original Wolf but his son, and he wants nothing to do with Red or her sacrifice. Afraid of her wild magic abilities and the danger they pose to her sister, Neverah, Red refuses to leave the Wilderwood. Instead, she clings to the new Wolf, Eammon, who will do whatever it takes to protect her from the grisly fate of the other Second Daughters. Meanwhile, in the Valleydan capital, Neve's desperation to bring her sister home sets her on a path that may spell disaster for Red, Eammon, and the Wilderwood itself. Whitten weaves a captivating tale in this debut, in which even secondary characters come to feel like old friends. The novel seamlessly blends "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty and the Beast" into an un-put-down-able fairy tale that traces the boundaries of duty, love, and loss.

A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-59278-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

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KLARA AND THE SUN

Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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