High fantasy marked by restraint, subtlety, and deep character maneuvering.

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From the Fourth Talisman series , Vol. 3

This third installment of a series sees the fire-wielding Vatra clan one step closer to escaping its desert prison.

One thousand years ago, three elemental daeva clans—the Danai, the Valkirin, and the Marakai—imprisoned a fourth group, the Vatras, in a desert called the Kiln. Now, a fire-wielding Vatra named Nicodemus has escaped. He seeks beings known as talismans, who can break the storms that enclose the Kiln. Enter half-daeva Nazafareen; her lover, Darius; and the band of heroes aboard the ship Chione. They sail the Austral Ocean with Capt. Mafuone in search of Sakhet-ra-katme, one of the original talismans who sealed the Vatras. Hopefully, the long-lived Sakhet can point Nazafareen toward the child she hid years ago, 12-year-old Mebetimmunedjem. On the ship Asperta, Meb “the Mouse” is a Marakai who can’t manipulate water like the rest of the seafaring daevas. She’s a member of the crew, under Capt. Kasaika, with no idea of the forces converging on her. Meanwhile, in Persian Samarqand, Javid has become a successful delivery pilot for the merchant Izad Asabana. One of their best customers is Prince Shahak, who’s addicted to the magical rush of spell dust. And at Val Moraine, Victor Dessarian punishes his son Galen with the task of tunneling through the ice wall surrounding a holdfast. In this latest volume in The Fourth Talisman fantasy series, Ross (Solis, 2018, etc.) keeps all of her narrative plates spinning at top speed. While dialogue drives her plots, lyrical filigree exalts the whole, as in the line “One by one, the stars winked out, as if devoured by some slouching celestial beast.” And though a vast war threatens her alternate ancient Persia, the author once more proves the master of small character moments, as when Nazafareen feels that “something shifted in her heart” after seeing an Aurora in the night sky “bleeding pure light.” Cast members from Solis return in frightening ways, including Apollonian acolyte Thena, whose mind goes blank as she murders someone. By the end, Ross has primed audiences for an epic conclusion.

High fantasy marked by restraint, subtlety, and deep character maneuvering.

Pub Date: June 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9990481-6-0

Page Count: 318

Publisher: Acorn

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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