A hoard of fantasy tales that proves damsels can be as dangerous as dragons.

SWORDS, SORCERY, & SELF-RESCUING DAMSELS

French (Space Angel, 2019, etc.) and debut editor Craft bring 17 fantasy tales with feminist twists in this sword and sorcery anthology.

A spy in the service of the king returns to her old mercenary guild in order to solve the murders of four female warriors…and to confront her own troubled past. A mute slave working in the dungeons of a shadowy keep meets a priest and agrees to take the condemned man’s sword to his lover, though it means risking her life to cross a vast wilderness. A disabled girl is always the last one picked for games, despite the fact that she is the local princess, until some magic intervenes that turns the tables on all. In this collection of fantasy stories, the old archetypes are inverted and the women and girls who normally lack agency are placed center stage. The tone ranges from light to dark, and some entries even lean toward the hard-boiled-detective genre. One standout is “The Princess and the Dragon” by Robyn Bennis, which concerns a princess trapped in a tower who is conspiring with her dragon guard to win back her kingdom. “If one of those knights realizes it’s all a front,” warns the princess, “they could expose the whole operation.” Another is “Aptitude” by Matt Youngmark; the daughter of servants sneaks into the lord of the manor’s library to read his books only to stumble upon an attempt by a magical elf to rob it. The volume includes work by seasoned fantasists like Jody Lynn Nye, Raven Oak, Connie J. Jasperson, and Katie Cross as well as emerging talents like Edward J. Knight. Not every story is a home run, but the diversity of premises and worlds makes for a delightfully unpredictable reading experience. Though each interprets the anthology’s theme a little differently, this sentiment from Jasperson is representative of the volume’s self-assured, spellcasting ebullience: “Three weeks ago, I was a slave, afraid of shadows. Now I am Thorn Girl, friend of minotaurs and mages. Kerk was right. Inside of me is a woman who can do anything.”

A hoard of fantasy tales that proves damsels can be as dangerous as dragons.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-944334-26-0

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Clockwork Dragon

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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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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