This historical fantasy series’ latest installment once again brings myth, history, magic and religion to warm and vivid...

THE CHRONICLES OF IONA: PROPHET

This historical fantasy novel, the second in a series, continues the adventures of warrior Aedan mac Gabran and monk St. Columba in sixth-century western Scotland.

In her debut novel, 2012’s The Chronicles of Iona: Exile, (one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2012), de Fougerolles recounted how Columba founded his famous monastery and helped set the stage for warrior Aedan’s rise to power. This second volume picks up some four years after the first, in the year 567. Aedan has been living among the Picts, his former enemies and now his in-laws; he’s learned their language and customs, and while he may not deeply love his Pict wife, he adores his small son. But now his brother, Eogan, needs his help. Saxon invaders threaten many small kingdoms, prophecies thicken the air, and Aedan and Columba work to restore a strong, wise kingship amid political, ethnic and religious strife. As she did in Exile, de Fougerolles, a medieval historian, reveals sixth-century Europe in vivid, brutal and beautiful detail—a place where myth, legend and history mingle. Her characters are fully rounded and psychologically complex, not just hack-and-slash warriors. The political intrigue is made more complicated by the tangle of unfamiliar people and places; for example, the names Elmet, Gwallawg, King Yffi, Catraeth, Kynfarch, Cair Ebrauc, the Oenaches and Din Guoaroy, among others, can all be found on a single page. (The author helpfully provides a glossary, maps and a timeline.) The appealing Columba has less to do in this installment, and Aedan sometimes seems to have little agency as circumstances back him into corners. That said, this book provides a rich feast, and fans will likely look forward to the series’ third book, forthcoming later this year.

This historical fantasy series’ latest installment once again brings myth, history, magic and religion to warm and vivid life.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2013

ISBN: 9780615753362

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Careswell Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2013

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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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