Impressive storytelling and assured characterization; sows seeds for books to follow.

THE HEALER'S RUNE

A woman has the chance to help free humans from an elfin race that has tyrannized them for centuries in Matuska’s debut and start of a proposed fantasy series.

Sabine Rhyonselle is just one of the humans living in the village of Khapor 300 years after the War of the New Dawn devastated the world of Ceryn Roh. The Council of Races, once consisting of humans, the elfin Rüddan, the now-extinct Aethel, and the nearly extinct Dryht, is presently an alliance between humans and Rüddan. The latter, however, treat humans like slaves, enforcing edicts that prohibit reading or the practicing of magic—under penalty of death. After Sabine’s friend Mariel, who’s a healer like Sabine, is publicly executed for possessing scrolls with writing, mentor Auda reveals that Mariel had a record of the true history of the races. This may, for one, call into question humanity’s treaty with the Rüddan. Sabine later encounters and aids an injured stranger who knew her late father, who, she learns, may have been capable of magic and had ties to a rebellion against the Rüddan. It’s best Sabine avoid drawing attention to herself, but she certainly plans on defying the recent Rüddan order restricting births, which would require the healer to kill infants. Matuska combines evocative prose—“The early autumn sky blushed pale pink with the first glow of pre-dawn”—with darker elements, like the nearby ruins of the Dryht city. Sabine is a superb protagonist, overcoming oppression as a human and more specifically as female; she’s afforded far fewer rights than men. There’s an array of twists, involving everything from individuals’ origins and relations to one another to abilities wielded by characters both good and bad. The ending is bound to leave readers pining for a sequel.

Impressive storytelling and assured characterization; sows seeds for books to follow.

Pub Date: March 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-946758-02-6

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Brimstone Fiction

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

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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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