Despite the scattered feel, Brown’s undertaking is an important one. It’s the first English-language book published on...



Brown (The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages, 2010, etc.) reexamines the life and work of Snorri Sturluson, the 13th-century Icelandic chieftain known as the “Homer of the North.”

An Icelandic historian, poet, landowner and “law speaker” of Iceland’s high court, Sturluson is the accredited author of two major contributions to the Norse cannon: the Edda and the Heimskringla. His sparkling wit and descriptive elegance distinguish his writing from other accounts and are responsible for making him a favorite of scholars and fantasy writers alike. It was Snorri’s renditions of Odin the wanderer, elves, frost giants and epic battles that inspired literary greats like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin. A lover of feasting, women, booze and, most of all, power, Snorri was also a passionate advocate for the preservation of the fading Norse mythology and poetic style of his time. Brown’s straightforward voice helps turn the pages, but the narrative is also belabored by an excess of genealogy. Although medieval Icelandic society was one of admittedly prolific breeders, the author makes little effort to help readers untangle her associations. Perhaps popular biographers like Stacy Schiff have left readers spoiled—readers may wonder how much more adeptly a biographer of her caliber might have brought this story to life. However, the book is absorbing enough that by the end, readers will feel affected by the loss of this powerful and complicated man.

Despite the scattered feel, Brown’s undertaking is an important one. It’s the first English-language book published on Snorri in 30 years, and for that reason alone, it will make useful reading for ardent students and dedicated armchair historians.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-230-33884-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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