A fast-paced series opener that will make readers eager to know Chavali’s next move.




From the The Greatest Sin series , Vol. 1

Kort (A Curse of Memories, 2017, etc.) and French (Ghost Is the New Normal, 2017, etc.) join forces to launch a fantasy series about a woman’s encounter with a highly unusual cabal.

In the land of Tilzam, the Blaukenev clan travels from country to country by wagon. Chavali is the clan Seer—marked by a pink feather sprouting from her forehead—who can know somebody’s thoughts at a touch. During carnivals, she reads customer fortunes in her tent, though the “parade of idiots and twits” with pedestrian problems irks her. Even worse, her bodyguard, Keino, harbors obsessive thoughts about her that bleed into her mind whenever they touch. One day, three men on horseback ask to travel with the caravan. Chavali learns that their names are Teryk, Eliot, and Colby. Each wears a signet ring on his middle finger, and they ask her numerous questions about the clan. After parting ways with the horsemen, the Blaukenev travel west, and one night, after Chavali finishes her readings, an insistent final customer offers to pay double to see her. He has the intense gaze of a predator and tells her, “The Order of the Strong Arm has come for you, Chavali.” This confrontation soon leads her to join a group of resurrected individuals with a very specific mission. In this brooding series opener, Kort and French insightfully explore staple fantasy elements, such as telepathy and resurrection, to luminous effect. Regarding the possibility of having a child, for example, Chavali wonders, “would she know the moment it began to form thoughts and be bombarded with them, unable to prevent it from driving her mad...until it was born?” Characters like Keino and Pasha, Chavali’s younger teenage sister, are sharply rendered and will draw readers deeply into their nomadic world. Events that occur midway through the narrative, however, prove that Kort and French are daring storytellers who aren’t afraid to yank the rug from beneath the audience’s feet. The book’s second half thoughtfully deals with the topic of revenge, and no character ever takes another’s life callously.

A fast-paced series opener that will make readers eager to know Chavali’s next move.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9891210-9-5

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Tangled Sky Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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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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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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