A novel that celebrates life and love the way only the best fantasy tales can.

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DREADMARROW THIEF

THE CONJURER FELLSTONE BOOK 1

In this YA fantasy debut, a magically powered teenager battles a ruling wizard on behalf of her parents.

Sixteen-year-old Tessa Skye lives in the village of Sorrenwood. Her father, Donal, is a locksmith, and her mother, Gillian, ran away—possibly with a lover or to her death in the river—12 years ago. Tessa adores her boyfriend, Ryland, but thinks little of his friend Ash Kemp, who grows shy around her. Lately, Tessa has been using an amulet that she found the day that her mother left, called a “windrider,” to change into a sparrow and take flight. One day, she swoops by the castle of Lord Fellstone, a conjurer who rules the region. He spies her sitting on a windowsill and suggests to his strange, masked apprentice, Ratcher, that they have sparrow for dinner. Tessa manages to escape, and after she arrives back home, Donal confiscates the amulet and scolds, “You can be sure there’s a price to be paid in using that magic.” Elsewhere, fortuneteller Calder Osric ends up in the stocks after one of his prognostications goes awry. Tessa helps free him, little realizing that there’s a link between them. Later, Fellstone’s knights murder someone close to Tessa. Calder discovers the body and informs Tessa that Fellstone possesses a special wand, the dreadmarrow, that can resurrect the dead. In this emotionally elegant debut, author Kaptanoglu takes choice YA themes—such as first love—and juxtaposes them against crafty fantasy elements. At one point, she writes of how Tessa prefers privacy while using the windrider: “There was something about the transformation of man into beast—or girl into bird—that felt intensely personal, like taking off my clothes.” The narrative also makes subtle narrative connections, such as the way that Ash’s quest for Tessa’s affection parallels Calder’s failure years ago to win over his teenage love, Faline. Kaptanoglu should be forgiven if the plot sutures up too neatly, because there are also surprises right up to the end.

A novel that celebrates life and love the way only the best fantasy tales can.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9994492-1-9

Page Count: 253

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 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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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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