A historical fantasy that crackles with electricity.



From the Fourth Talisman series , Vol. 1

A powerful amnesiac must escape her captors to search for her past. 

In this fantasy, Nazafareen, “a mortal with da?va blood and the ability to shatter magic,” is being held in Nocturne, a realm of perpetual night. Her right hand is missing, and she remembers virtually nothing of her past, which is how the element-wielding da?vas like it. She’s closest with Darius of House Dessarian, who carried her through the Dominion gate after her magic-nullifying powers overloaded. The elementals keep Nazafareen hidden from the Valkirin, another clan, who want her dead. She’d prefer the truth about her past, however, to remaining an outcast among the da?vas. When a Valkirin messenger arrives from the Val Moraine holdfast, she learns that she must surrender or risk creating a war between da?va clans. Meanwhile, at Val Moraine, a fallen warrior named Culach, blind and covered in severe burns, convalesces. He’s cared for by Mina, a Dessarian hostage whom he despises. Back in Nocturne, a flying machine made from ropes and fabric crashes, delivering an emissary from the mortal realm of Samarqand. As the visitor, Javid, discusses economic backchannels with Lady Tethys, Nazafareen plans her escape via airship. Unfortunately, Culach’s father, Eirik, hopes to strike a mortal blow at House Dessarian and eliminate the “abomination” it protects. In this series opener, Ross (The Thirteenth Gate, 2017, etc.) returns to the alternate ancient Persia of her Fourth Element trilogy and offers a spoiler-free reintroduction of her characters and their intertwined backstories. The author’s excitement and clarity of vision should impress those who’ve never read her before. The narrative’s magical components never overshadow the players and their struggles (Lady Tethys tells Nazafareen, regarding her amnesia, “Some people might see it as a gift. A chance to start life anew”). And the characters newly taking shape are thrilling to behold. The chimeras, for example, are “bound together by air and thus translucent except for the blood coursing through...delicately branching veins and occasional clots of darker matter.” Layered subplots featuring Culach, Mina, and Javid provide an embarrassment of riches. The finale primes audiences to learn about the legendary Vatras, who did what other elementals can’t—control fire.

A historical fantasy that crackles with electricity.

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9990481-0-8

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Acorn

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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