A tight, action-packed fantasy bursting with vigor.

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ROCKMOOR

BOOK TWO OF TINDER & FLINT

In this sequel, the survivors of a goblin battle continue their journey to a port city where an even greater evil awaits.

A warrior named Ohlen and his companions, who all have special skills, fought a horde of goblins to rescue some captive villagers. Now the six friends, including Arden, Boudreaux, Gnome, Ruprecht, and she-elf X’andria, are desperate for rest to recoup their strength. On their way to the city of Rockmoor, they visit a mystic healer, Magda, to treat Arden’s battle-scarred face. But Magda instead offers a warning, cryptically citing an impending “dark storm” and “evil terror.” Believing his cohorts need time for improving their abilities, Ohlen separates from them. In Rockmoor, the five remaining friends train intensely: Gnome hones his stealth under a master thief’s schooling while X’andria studies magic. Ohlen unfortunately gets a taste of the accursed evil destined to befall the group when a reanimated corpse attacks him. The evil soon makes its presence known to all, as Arden hurries from an unseen pursuer and someone in the band disappears. The seemingly invisible villain wants something specific from Ohlen and company, pitting them against vile creatures, from rat abominations in the sewer to a much more formidable monster. Hinsley’s (Tinder & Flint, 2016) exhilarating fantasy novel is a tireless array of action and atmosphere. Flashbacks, for example, like Gnome’s startling first encounter with magic, are precise without slowing the narrative. The steady momentum is coupled with constant allusions to forthcoming peril, even Boudreaux’s excessive drinking: “With each cup of the dark golden brew, the pointy edges of worry about their current predicament became duller.” Garretsen’s illustrations harmonize with the prose; images give the impression of having been carved onto a black matte, bestowing the “roiling sea” with the ominous “inky blackness” Hinsley aptly details at one point. Each of the six main characters is spotlighted, though the players are at their best—and most entertaining—when the group is assembled. The story ends with a thorough wrap-up and a Book 3 teaser.

A tight, action-packed fantasy bursting with vigor.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-387-00368-6

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Envision Arts

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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