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WORLD WITHOUT END

A lively entertainment for fans of The Once and Future King, The Lord of the Rings and other multilayered epics.

The peasants are revolting. Some, anyway. Others—the good-hearted varlets, churls and nickpurses of Follett’s latest—are just fine.

In a departure from his usual taut, economical procedurals (Whiteout, 2004, etc.), Follett revisits the Middle Ages in what amounts to a sort of sequel to The Pillars of the Earth (1989). The story is leisurely but never slow, turning in the shadow of the great provincial cathedral in the backwater of Kingsbridge, the fraught construction of which was the ostensible subject of the first novel. Now, in the 1330s, the cathedral is a going concern, populated by the same folks who figured in its making: intriguing clerics, sometimes clueless nobles and salt-of-the-earth types. One of the last is a resourceful young girl—and Follett’s women are always resourceful, more so than the menfolk—who liberates the overflowing purse of one of those nobles. Her father has already lost a hand for thievery, but that’s an insufficient deterrent in a time of hunger, and a time when the lords “were frequently away: at war, in Parliament, fighting lawsuits, or just attending on their earl or king.” Thus the need for watchful if greedy bailiffs and tough sheriffs, who make Gwenda’s grown-up life challenging. Follett has a nice eye for the sometimes silly clash of the classes and the aspirations of the small to become large, as with one aspiring prior who “had only a vague idea of what he would do with such power, but he felt strongly that he belonged in some elevated position in life.” Alas, woe meets some of those who strive, a fact that touches off a neat little mystery at the beginning of the book, one that plays its way out across the years and implicates dozens of characters.

A lively entertainment for fans of The Once and Future King, The Lord of the Rings and other multilayered epics.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2007

ISBN: 0451228375

Page Count: 992

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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