A tried-and-true heroic tale made fresh with novelty and well-researched details.

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OLDE ROBIN HOOD

This epic fantasy retelling of a classic story delivers characters both new and familiar.

Danley’s (A Spirited Manor, 2018, etc.) tale has a mythic bent from the beginning, as the corrupt sheriff of Nottingham murders Robin Hood’s father and burns their family farm to the ground. This episode invokes the idea of the monomyth (and a call to action, especially for the farm boy). From there, the story hits familiar beats but keeps them fresh with information from folktales and oral traditions apparently pre-dating the Robin Hood mythos of modern popular culture. Exiled, Robin escapes to Sherwood Forest, where he meets Little John (fleeing the sheriff’s service). The two become friends and join forces with others, adopting a moral code even as they turn to highway robbery to survive. Interestingly, this code is less contingent on their targets’ wealth than their honesty, as Robin and his companions visit justice on only those who lie when asked if they have money. Rather than resorting to violent acts, they have a strict rule against killing and, in fact, invite some weary travelers to join them in their feasts. Further, Robin renounces Christianity early in the story, seeing clergymen as another aspect of the corrupt state, preying on the downtrodden and coveting riches beyond their needs. This stance—as well as the fact that Robin is neither a nobleman nor a loyalist to an absent king, as in some adaptations—sets Danley’s protagonist apart from the simplicity of the morality plays the character often stars in and introduces pagan religion and a philosophy akin to political anarchism, with its strong opposition to unjust hierarchies. Some readers may find that these elements fail to breathe new life into the tale’s well-trod ground, especially as the plot proceeds. Robin (now beloved by the poor) is pitted against an increasingly irate sheriff, forcing the hero to use only his wits and skills to save his friend and lady love. The bones of the narrative are familiar (Little John says of Robin: “He gets one taste of treating folks with kindness, and it is like a thirst that is never quenched”). But the classic story endures for a reason, and many readers will likely find themselves intrigued and entertained by the novel’s rich prose, intense action, historical and mythological depth, and captivating innovations.

A tried-and-true heroic tale made fresh with novelty and well-researched details.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72384-312-9

Page Count: 313

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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