A dramatic and instructive history of the birth of Persia.



A work of historical fiction focuses on the life of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire.

In an effort to forge a political alliance, the king of Medea, Astyages, offers his daughter, Mandane, to the Persian king of Anshan, Cambyses I. Much to the dismay of Astyages, though, a prophecy later foretells that his grandchild will grow up to overthrow his rule. He quickly decides that the child must be executed and orders one of his commanders, Harpagus, to dispose of him. Harpagus disobeys the king, gives him to Mitradotes to raise as his own son, and names him Cyrus. Years later, the boy displays such prodigious wisdom and regal poise, Astyages becomes suspicious of his origins, and Harpagus comes clean and confesses his disobedience. The king punishes Harpagus by killing his son and feeding the boy to his father, but he permits Cyrus to leave, a decision he soon regrets. Astyages becomes fearful of Cyrus’ burgeoning popularity and plots his assassination, but the conspiracy fails. After Cyrus announces his independence, Astyages surrenders. With the unified nation behind him, Cyrus overtakes Susiana. Then he repels the aggressive advances of the talented leader Croesus and extends the empire to Babylon, liberating thousands of Jews in captivity. Though Cyrus rules for only 30 years or so, his reforms lay the groundwork for the next 1,200 years of the empire; he not only democratizes the governmental structure and creates a currency, but also establishes a charter of human rights remarkably progressive for the time. Balouchian (Punishment, 2017, etc.) manages to artfully condense a complex history into a very brief novel, well under 200 pages. The drama, sometimes tantalizingly grim, unfolds with an electrified air of suspense even though the reader knows the conclusion of the tale is foregone. The most remarkable aspect of Cyrus’ governance was his insistence on the rights of his citizens, a position so historically radical one wishes the author could have attempted more of an explanation for its basis. Nonetheless, this is a well-crafted and readable introduction to a major historical figure.

A dramatic and instructive history of the birth of Persia.

Pub Date: June 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9905973-4-6

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Mason's Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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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