A complicated follow-up that pushes its cast to the physical and emotional brink.


From the Fourth Talisman series , Vol. 2

In this fantasy sequel set in ancient Persia, Ross (Nocturne, 2017) prepares her heroes to confront a banished tribe of fire-wielding elementals.

Nazafareen, whose parents were a mortal and a magical da?va, is in the city of Delphi. She’s under the protection of Kallisto, leader of the Maenads, a group of “virgin warriors” who fight for the god Dionysius. Kallisto is married to the historian Herodotus, who’s been imprisoned for witchcraft by the Archon Basileus. He faces imminent trial, and standing with him will be Nazafareen’s friend Javid, who was captured by soldiers in the previous installment. To help free them, Nazafareen and the Maenads investigate Kadmos and Serpedon, toadies of the Archon who likely planted forbidden spell dust in the historian’s study. The trial, however, seems to have already been fixed, orchestrated by the High Priestess of the Temple of Apollo; she’s searching for information on four talismans that helped imprison the clan called the Avas Vatras, 1,000 years ago. If the Vatras, da?vas who control fire, escape from the vast desert known as the Kiln, they’ll seek vengeance on the other elemental clans responsible for their imprisonment: the Danai, the Valkirins, and the Marakai. Meanwhile, the blind Valkirin Culach, who’s also in jail, forges a connection via his dreams with Farrumohr, a royal adviser who witnessed the Vatras’ fall. For this dense second volume of the Fourth Talisman series, Ross plots with Olympian vigor, packing her alternate version of Persia with complex characters and a multilayered mythos. Javid, a transgender man, steals numerous scenes as someone who embodies the notion that “life is too short to live as others would have us be.” Meanwhile, Darius, Nazafareen’s love interest, spends half the novel chained in the rooms of Thena, a priestess who intends to break him; when Thena falls in love with the indomitable hero, Ross does what she does best—creating subtle entanglements that intensify other subplots. This volume’s opening dilemma finds resolution, but there’s plenty still in flux to drive readers to an epic third installment.

A complicated follow-up that pushes its cast to the physical and emotional brink.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9990481-4-6

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Acorn

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 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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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.


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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