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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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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