A compelling addition to an impressive fantasy series with a strong heroine.

The Ruling Mask

From the The Grey City series , Vol. 3

McGarry and Ravipinto (The Fall of Ventaris, 2013, etc.) return to the turbulent city of Rodaas in this third installment of a series.

In gang- and guild-dominated Rodaas, affiliation means everything. Wearing the cloak of the Grey Highway—a society of thieves with influence in all corners of the fantastic city—is perhaps the most desirable association of them all. So thinks Darley, the privileged aristocrat’s daughter, who approaches Grey member Duchess in an attempt to gain an invitation to the order. Darley knows of Duchess’ past—that she, too, was the daughter of an aristocrat, though she has turned her back on that life—and hopes to use their former acquaintance to bend Duchess to her will. Duchess has her own plans, though. Darley’s connections to the city’s scholars may be of benefit to Duchess’ work as well as provide some insight into the recurring dreams from which she has been suffering. But why, wonders Duchess, does a particular scholar, Cecilia Payne—the only female one in the city—want to meet with her? And what is the origin of these rumors swirling through the streets that Duchess is a murderer for hire? Tensions are building in Rodaas: the city’s cults are on the verge of an all-out war, and the empress’ control of the throne is not assured. In a place where so much is based on hearsay and anecdote, Duchess must be very careful what she says—and what she allows to be said about her. “Each is a story,” her mentor warns her while discussing whispered rumors that affected two powerful men. “Each has a tale behind it. Sometimes we know them, and sometimes we only wish we did.” In Rodaas, McGarry and Ravipinto have created a world of profound complexity and intrigue (At one point, Duchess recalls: “Someone once told me of a theory that Rodaas passes through periods of long stagnation punctuated by spasms of change, sometimes violent change”). Readers unfamiliar with the earlier works in the Grey City series will likely feel over their heads, as the nuances of the various castes and factions are deep and difficult to suss out. Those willing to commit themselves to the installments, however, will find their investment paying dividends. This third volume of Duchess’ story is the most knotty, absorbing, and satisfying yet.

A compelling addition to an impressive fantasy series with a strong heroine.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9850149-2-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Peccable Productions

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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