A quick but endlessly diverting fantasy story.


In the authors’ debut medieval fantasy, a newly established kingdom finds that it isn’t immune to the machinations of rival leaders.

After Prince Martin and his men help the kingdom of Knottwood defend itself from the Black Army, Knottwood’s King Richard agrees to give them land to build their own castle. Martin tries to peaceably inaugurate his new kingdom by trading with other peoples, including the nearby Vikings. But it isn’t long before King Richard learns that Martin lied to him about his royal lineage. Richard fuels his rage into war, and Martin gathers all the allies he can to combat his advancing army. McAlear and Sinko’s novel seems to be aimed at young-adult readers, with simple prose that concentrates less on description and more on an ever progressing plot; the Knottwood knights, for example, are engaged in conflict before Page 10. The story’s swift pace suits the character of Martin, who makes quick decisions even when not in battle; for example, when the Vikings demand gold in exchange for land, Martin quickly offers olive oil, which he shrewdly calls “magic oil.” Some characters are more one-dimensional, such as King Richard, whose physical description alone—unkempt hair, a shirt soiled from his last meal—marks him as a vile man. Numerous other characters, however, are well-rounded. Martin’s discussions with his friend Henry, the captain of his men, are often lighthearted and offer a nice contrast to the perpetual threat of aggression from all sides. Martin’s burgeoning relationship with a young girl named Elizabeth helps him learn patience and compassion, and her persistent barrage of questions is both exasperating and endearing. The story also clearly explains the mysterious Black Army; the evident animosity between Richard and his neighbor King Saxton; and the specific reasons that Martin and his followers abandoned their former kingdom. The knockout ending makes reading the next book almost a necessity.

A quick but endlessly diverting fantasy story.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4840-9970-4

Page Count: 254

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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