A sophisticated tale that should whet audiences’ appetites for further historical and religious reading.

The Raven Watched

This fantasy novel from Weiss (The Goddess Wheel, 2003, etc.) follows a trio of young sisters as they’re initiated into the world of Italian witchcraft.

In the spring of 1970, Sophia, the Priestess of the Rimini witch clan, dies without any daughters to carry on the family’s Stregheria tradition. She bequeaths her villa in the Tuscan mountains to her nieces, Gina and Barbara, the latter of whom is visiting Italy from New York. Barbara brings three daughters—Mimi, 9, Kara, 14, and Joanne, 17—and her husband, John, a strident Catholic, with her. While the girls explore the villa and countryside, John casts a disapproving eye upon all things pagan, including the idea that his impressionable daughters might enjoy witchcraft. Gina and others in the Rimini clan warn Barbara that “a strong anti-pagan faction has been building propaganda against us for several years now.” The girls, however, each have magical adventures that prove the beauty of Stregheria; all the while, a raven keeps close watch, particularly on Kara. As Beltane (May 1) approaches, the sisters realize that their family could tear apart if a battle occurs between the healing magic of the Benandanti clan and the black magic of the Malandanti. Weiss’ debut novel may star three youngsters, but its larger themes of dogmatic Catholicism and its maternal predecessor, paganism, may be better appreciated by older teens and adults. Nevertheless, playful characters abound, include a fairy named Tinkle and Sophia’s familiar, a cat named Toby. Frequently, the author’s depictions of nature are gorgeous, as when “Mimi sat down on a fallen log, inhaling the salty breeze and listening to the sounds of a timeless world.” These moments are in tune with the history lessons that are revealed to the girls, most of which bolster the idea that “the rules and trappings of formalized religions were only added on as men tried to take control of Nature.” An action-packed finale stirs in wizardry and gunplay to chilling effect, and the choosing of the new Priestess is a joy to behold.

A sophisticated tale that should whet audiences’ appetites for further historical and religious reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4699-2507-3

Page Count: 428

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 19

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?