Striking prose and characters make this opening fantasy installment worthwhile.

JACK OF THORNS

From the Inheritance series , Vol. 1

In Faulkner’s series-launching urban fantasy debut, two men with untapped superpowers face off against a god with sinister intentions.

Bambi Laurence Riley, who goes by his middle name, can see the future. The first sign of his ability came three years ago during a heroin overdose. He saw snippets of upcoming events, including his father’s death and his own failed stints in rehab. Today, Laurence lives above a San Diego flower shop that his mother, Myriam, runs. He’s inherited her apparent powers of precognition as well as a supernatural ability to grow and heal plants. But although she’s mastered the former gift, Laurence only sees random glimpses of things to come. One involves a handsome man, whom Laurence soon encounters in real life. He’s Quentin Ichabod d’Arcy, a British earl who’s currently in the United States to evade his fame in London. The two have a mutual attraction—which Laurence’s stalker ex-boyfriend, Dan, unfortunately notices immediately. Laurence’s problems get worse when he forgoes his usual prayer for a blessing from the fertility god Cernunnos, and simply asks the Celtic deity for direct help and guidance in his life. Cernunnos responds by manifesting as an emerald-eyed human who insists that Laurence call him Jack. The newcomer’s persistent demands for sexual sustenance lead to him to force a kiss on Quentin, and the latter defends himself with apparent telekinesis. Quentin, like Laurence, can’t control his gift, but both try to hone their skills to combat Jack, who’s cooking up a scheme that could prove devastating. Faulkner’s first series installment offers a commendable introduction to his characters. Laurence and Quentin are flawed but enthralling; the story alternates between the two characters’ points of view, but readers learn a little more about Laurence. His fight against addiction is realistically constant, and triggers such as alcohol sometimes cause stumbles. But his respect for his mother makes him sympathetic from the beginning. Myriam earns this respect as the novel’s best character—a woman who knows the future but wisely doesn’t reveal too much of it to her son. Readers may take longer to warm up to Quentin; he’s initially pretentious, with a palpable animosity toward American customs and vernacular. His background remains somewhat mysterious, but Faulkner makes clear that Quentin has never lived anywhere without a butler before. Stretches of the story concentrate on the two men and their prospective lovers, and they offer sound character development but minimal romance; Laurence’s attraction to the virginal Quentin doesn’t seem to be much more than physical. Along the way, Faulkner’s lustrous passages turn basic scenery into beautiful imagery: “The branches waved lazily in a light breeze and, in parting, revealed a hanging rope, from which was suspended what appeared to be a vast tire from some industrial vehicle.” The story also generates a fair amount of suspense after Jack’s nefarious plan begins to unfold and lives are threatened, and the ending aptly sets up a second book.

Striking prose and characters make this opening fantasy installment worthwhile.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-912349-11-1

Page Count: 390

Publisher: Ravensword Press

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2019

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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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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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