Despite taking an entire book to get to the Collegium, Sauvain’s ensemble of unique characters enduring precarious...

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COLLEGIUM SORCERORUM

THADDEUS OF BEEWICKE

In Sauvain’s epic fantasy, an aging sorcerer recruits three teenagers to study at the Collegium Sorcerorum; on their way, they’ll face thrilling adventures, romantic encounters and life lessons.

Set in the mysterious Dark Ages, the novel begins with an eccentric, mule-riding vagabond successfully luring 14-year-old Thaddeus from his parents’ home in Beewicke. The nearly 1,000-year-old sorcerer, Master Silvestrus (reminiscent of Dumbledore), recruits Thaddeus of Beewicke, Anders of Brightfield and Rolland of Fountaindale—a prominent thief—as his three apprentices. They are to travel to the Collegium, learn the art of sorcery and play their part in fulfilling an age-old prophecy. Sauvain’s detail-rich paragraphs and astute sense of character development are comparable to the Harry Potter series. Here, however, sorcery is more experimental and requires one to believe and have been intimate with a beloved. While Thaddeus is the clear-cut protagonist, the characters of Rolland, Anders and Asullus are arguably more compelling and memorable. Asullus, the talking mule, is hilarious and loyal to a fault. Anders, having studied under numerous scholars, is the intelligent one. Rolland, an orphan who grew up on the streets and steals for survival, quickly develops an entertaining love/hate relationship with Asullus. Together, Master Silvestrus and company tackle adventures featuring robbers, ogres, deceptive butterflies, spirits, fairies, elves, talking trees, demons, a peculiar dog named Bellis, the cursed Cin army of cowards and more. Although splendid characterizations, engaging plot twists and humorous dialogues are the pillars of Sauvain’s narrative, a number of characters seem rushed and far too temporary; for example, Ethne enters the novel early as Thaddeus’ love interest, but there’s no sign of her in the remaining 548 pages. Sean Bodley’s illustrations and maps add depth to the setting, the extensive glossary allows readers to understand Lingua Imperatoria and the section on “Dramatis Personae” is instrumental in explaining who each character is and the role he plays.

Despite taking an entire book to get to the Collegium, Sauvain’s ensemble of unique characters enduring precarious situations delivers great fun and anticipation for the ensuing books in the saga.

Pub Date: July 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615503295

Page Count: 548

Publisher: Louis Sauvain

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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.

THE RESCUE

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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