A straightforward, somewhat awkward fantasy epic about a determined monarch and a dangerous knight.

The Prouds

A debut novel sets the stage for a war between two great factions.

Taher’s story explores the pre-industrial fantasy kingdom of Widea, governed by King Matthew. In Matthew’s tumultuous youth, his father, King Kendrick, dies and leaves him suffocated under the control of a regency council. Matthew is vexed that a single neighboring tribe—the Prouds, descended from their legendary ancestor, The Proud, and following their Leader, Addison—will not submit to his rule. Though Matthew wishes to invade neighboring tribal lands and use the income from annexing them to reduce his people’s tax burden, his regents remain stubbornly conservative. Finally, with the aid of an ambitious military officer, he kills his regents and effectively conquers his own kingdom at the age of 16. While revenge breaks his heart, he still moves forward with his ambitions against the Prouds—not reckoning with his own inexperience and that of his armies or with the might of Jarvis, son of Leader Addison and a deadly knight. But as the tide of war turns against Jarvis and the Prouds, they become divided in their purpose: should they carry on in their struggle to defy Matthew, risking everything, or make peace and at last bow to an overlord from a rival land? The story is broad in focus, with numerous characters. Jarvis, the ostensible protagonist, does not truly enter the narrative until halfway through the book. (The first half is essentially the story of Matthew’s early life and career.) Unfortunately, the large cast is drawn in simple strokes and needs greater depth and complexity. The author has apparently mastered at least two languages, and while this is admirable, the text is often inelegant and lacks fluidity. (For example: “His loud words were very harsh on the commander because he loved the king so much. Besides, he was not used to being treated so harshly even by King Kendrick, who was much older than him, let alone that king, who was much younger than him.”) Overall, the book remains a worthy first effort but lacks polish.

A straightforward, somewhat awkward fantasy epic about a determined monarch and a dangerous knight.

Pub Date: July 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62526-410-7

Page Count: 268

Publisher: Solstice

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2016

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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