An action-packed, phantasmagoric tavern crawl.

THE JINXED PIRATE

From the Graylands series , Vol. 2

Two protagonists struggle against power-hungry tyrants and their own cursed natures in this sequel.

The Graylands is a constellation of lawless towns, strewn between the Two Empires, which are waging war with each other. Katrina Lamont, an alcoholic and former Chosen One, drifts from one dismal watering hole to the next, hoping to smother memories of losing her kingdom, Vigor, 10 years ago. But the specter of Jagger Ryggs, thief and love of her life, persists. Pirate Krutch Leeroy, meanwhile, is a mild-mannered drifter cursed as a youth by a sorceress who mistook him for a great warrior. Thanks to her spellwork, the pirate’s name is whispered throughout the Graylands with fear and respect. After sleeping off yet another night of trouble that only a pirate lord can find, he awakes at a mission and meets the vivacious, adventure-starved Audra Fay. Elsewhere in the Graylands are the wealthy Synclaire siblings, Deck, Lock, and Cassie. They left Vigor when the savage Armand Tyrell took power. Can any of these personalities resist the pull of Seba, a city crawling with human—and goblin—filth run by war profiteer Sebastian Clock, who hunts for a gauntlet enchanted with dark magic? In this second trip through the Graylands, Walsh (The Ghost Princess, 2015) takes readers on the scenic route through a hellish fusion of Tolkien and HBO’s Deadwood. And despite the potential for overwrought battles among orcs, wizards, and succubi (Lily Blackthorn makes a welcome return), the author proves that character is king. Katrina’s desire to find Vigorian survivors—or any kindred spirit—is heartbreaking. Likewise, Krutch’s epiphany that “maybe it was time he stopped running and made his curse his power” is as thrilling as most sword fights. That said, the action is superb (“the fat man was split open where his neck met his right shoulder. His head curved to the side with a baffled look on his face”). Fans of the first novel should expect a more leisurely plot that widens the physical and emotional scopes of Walsh’s dusty realm.

An action-packed, phantasmagoric tavern crawl.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5428-0568-1

Page Count: 492

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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