JACK OF THORNS

From the Inheritance series , Vol. 1

Striking prose and characters make this opening fantasy installment worthwhile.

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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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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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