A well-told, if occasionally implausible, time-travel tale.

The Castle MacQueed

In Bennett’s debut novel, a group of adventurers on a mysterious mission journey back in time to a medieval castle.

With a promise of riches, the wealthy, eccentric Gilles Breannan asks debt-ridden video gamer Drake MacKay to accompany him on a trip to the Castle MacQueed, suspended in time circa the year 865. Both men have already honed their battle skills in the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group dedicated to the exploration of life in Europe prior to the 17th century. Drake quickly learns he is not the only invitee; others include Gilles’ assistant and lover, Siddonie Velero, and two medical doctors specializing in neonatology (the care of newborn babies) and high-risk obstetrics, respectively. After a tense moment of time travel, the group arrives intact with their supplies at the castle on the North Sea, intent on finding a powerful, priceless book titled The Book of the Angel Raziel. Gilles is tight-lipped about the details of the mission, but everyone on the team has been promised a share of MacQueed’s treasures. As events progress, the journey’s true purpose is revealed and they all find their lives in danger. The novel brings a sense of authenticity to its details of medieval life, which is shown to have a vitality sorely missing in the present age. However, the characters offer flimsy justifications for accompanying Gilles, persuasive though he may be, considering the trip’s potential hazards. Scotsman Gilles’ “dinna ask me questions” approach will likely frustrate readers, as it seems obvious that the characters would demand answers before committing to such a venture. Overall, the story is intriguing but occasionally confusing, as viewpoints switch and present-day characters are matched to medieval counterparts. That said, the tale builds momentum to become an engaging, action-packed ensemble piece in its final chapters. By the end, Drake seems poised to be a hero, but Gilles wins the day with his stubborn dedication to his mission.

A well-told, if occasionally implausible, time-travel tale.

Pub Date: March 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1493174775

Page Count: 454

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2014

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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