A compelling, heart-wrenching, creative, and intricate read.

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THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF STONES

As the Great War rages, a talented jeweler with a psychic affinity for stones creates mourning talismans with messages for those left behind, which leads her to a ghostly romance and a dangerous rendezvous with a tragic Russian exile.

Opaline Duplessi has come to Paris to work with the famous jeweler Pavel Orloff at his Palais Royale shop, La Fantaisie Russe. Orloff studied under Fabergé in Russia, and his Paris store has become a haven for émigrés fleeing Russia after the revolution. Opaline has become his most prized apprentice, since his own three sons may not survive the war. Opaline is from a family with a supernatural heritage and has discovered her own magick, an ability to psychically connect with stones. She has gained a quiet reputation as a mystic who fashions mourning jewelry for loved ones of fallen soldiers and offers them some peace through final messages gleaned from the pieces. When a soldier’s mother requests one, Opaline discovers a special connection to the woman’s son, a journalist before the war who wrote dispatches from the trenches. Never before has Opaline’s gift manifested in a bond beyond the final message, but with Jean Luc, Opaline remains tied to him in a way she doesn’t understand and which begins to make her question her sanity. Meanwhile, word of the assassination of Czar Nicholas II reaches the loyalists in Paris, and the dowager empress requests a meeting with Opaline in the hope she can discern whether the rest of her family is alive or dead. Making a dangerous trek to England, Opaline discovers a plot against the Russian royal and may be the only one who can save her, though it risks her tenuous relationship to a ghost she is loath to relinquish. Rose follows up The Witch of Painted Sorrows (2015) with Sandrine’s daughter’s story, set against the tragic yet exquisite canvases of Paris, the Great War, and the Russian Revolution, and offers fascinating historical tidbits in the midst of bright, imaginative storytelling and complex, supernatural worldbuilding.

A compelling, heart-wrenching, creative, and intricate read.

Pub Date: July 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7809-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

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HOMEGOING

A novel of sharply drawn character studies immersed in more than 250 hard, transformative years in the African-American diaspora.

Gyasi’s debut novel opens in the mid-1700s in what is now Ghana, as tribal rivalries are exploited by British and Dutch colonists and slave traders. The daughter of one tribal leader marries a British man for financial expediency, then learns that the “castle” he governs is a holding dungeon for slaves. (When she asks what’s held there, she’s told “cargo.”) The narrative soon alternates chapters between the Ghanans and their American descendants up through the present day. On either side of the Atlantic, the tale is often one of racism, degradation, and loss: a slave on an Alabama plantation is whipped “until the blood on the ground is high enough to bathe a baby”; a freedman in Baltimore fears being sent back South with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act; a Ghanan woman is driven mad from the abuse of a missionary and her husband’s injury in a tribal war; a woman in Harlem is increasingly distanced from (and then humiliated by) her husband, who passes as white. Gyasi is a deeply empathetic writer, and each of the novel’s 14 chapters is a savvy character portrait that reveals the impact of racism from multiple perspectives. It lacks the sweep that its premise implies, though: while the characters share a bloodline, and a gold-flecked stone appears throughout the book as a symbolic connector, the novel is more a well-made linked story collection than a complex epic. Yet Gyasi plainly has the talent to pull that off: “I will be my own nation,” one woman tells a British suitor early on, and the author understands both the necessity of that defiance and how hard it is to follow through on it.

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94713-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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