Imagination aplenty, but this rousing animal tale needs some refinement.


A red panda shaman confronts a villainous brown bear and his clan with the help of new friends and elementals from the spirit realm in this debut YA fantasy novel.

Bears populate a Far East-like world of the past in this series opener. At its center is Saraynea, an orphaned female red panda. An untrained shaman, she has the ability to manipulate the elements of fire, earth, air, and water. Saraynea is relentlessly pursued through forests and icy mountains by an evil clan led by brown bear Darkstorm, another shaman, who wants to use her as a means to harness and corrupt the power of magical beings in and outside of the spirit realm. Journeying toward her final confrontation with Darkstorm, Saraynea accumulates a cadre of female friends to help: a shy monk, a fierce warrior, a hunter, a mage and her sister, and a turncoat “shadow priestess” named Kheiryn. The priestess has a potent bond of “dark magic, so strong that shadow energy” emits from her back, which she keeps “in the form of black wings.” In addition, Saraynea’s “guardian spirit” turns out to be a formidable lion, whose jaws can shatter a warrior’s blade. The inventive story clearly reflects the author’s stated influences (zoology, anime, and video games), showing the female characters’ insecurities and growing closeness—scenes depicting the latter deliver a good deal of the book’s charm—and offering numerous fierce battles, lavishly detailed with martial arts action, arrows, swords, and magic. The bear characters (clad in robes, armor, and other garb) are believable in both their human attributes and their beastly qualities (paws, fangs, fur). But flaws in execution detract from the vivid world of Pluchino’s creation. Errors include a confusion of pronouns, repeated use of the same word within a single paragraph (“Fear rushed….The rush of thoughts….She rushed”), awkward phrasing, and run-on sentences (“Achamaru was happy to see her starting to feel better since they found her while Ayumei excitedly listened to Saraynea’s stories of how she would play with the spirits when she was a cub as well as when she met her spirit guardian”). Abrupt time shifts, too, undermine urgency and consistency. But the ending’s lighthearted resolution, setting up the bear friends for romance and adventures to come, is unexpectedly touching.

Imagination aplenty, but this rousing animal tale needs some refinement.

Pub Date: July 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5190-2842-6

Page Count: 395

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

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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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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