A historically astute and rousing adventure.

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THE TEMPLAR LEGACY

A historical novel set in the early 15th century details an English soldier’s dangerous mission in hostile territory.

In 1423, Henry V, the Plantagenet king of England, lies on his deathbed and summons his brother, John the Duke of Bedford, to his side. While the war against France goes well, England is becoming perilously low on funds. But the king has a plan to raise nearly inexhaustible reserves and entrusts the execution of that endeavor to John. Henry was approached by Charles d’Evreux and offered access to a fortune if he could reestablish the Order of the Temple, a militant band of monks banned a hundred years ago by the French government, and return the lands stolen from the group. Over the years, the Templars amassed unfathomable wealth and are willing to part with a considerable portion of it to see France under the rule of a friendlier king. But there is a catch: that fortune is housed in Outremer, land governed by the Turks, who are sure to be antagonistic to grasping interlopers. John picks Capt. Richard Calveley to accompany him on the hazardous journey. But John is ultimately unable to neglect his duties on the home front, so he entrusts Richard with the operation. Meanwhile, Richard’s estate is supervised in his absence by Father Hugh. The priest is blackmailed by Richard’s dastardly cousin, Geoffrey, who is obsessed with winning the ownership of the property. Father Hugh is caught in an indiscreet relationship with a married woman he loves and must choose between his public mortification and loyalty to Richard. This is the second installment in Tallon’s Richard Calveley Trilogy (The Lion and the Lily, 2016), and while a narrative ligature clearly runs from one book to the other, this stirring work can be read on its own. The author packs a lot of drama into a relatively short novel—there’s romance, political intrigue, religion, and war (Richard is shown to be an empathetic commander who is beloved by his men: “One glance from those jade green eyes and the company would cheerfully follow him to the ends of the earth”). Despite the various threads, the plot never seems cramped and is lucidly and briskly developed. In addition, the tale’s historical details are scrupulously presented, creating an aura of authenticity. 

A historically astute and rousing adventure.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5462-8239-6

Page Count: 278

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2018

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A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

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HOMEGOING

A novel of sharply drawn character studies immersed in more than 250 hard, transformative years in the African-American diaspora.

Gyasi’s debut novel opens in the mid-1700s in what is now Ghana, as tribal rivalries are exploited by British and Dutch colonists and slave traders. The daughter of one tribal leader marries a British man for financial expediency, then learns that the “castle” he governs is a holding dungeon for slaves. (When she asks what’s held there, she’s told “cargo.”) The narrative soon alternates chapters between the Ghanans and their American descendants up through the present day. On either side of the Atlantic, the tale is often one of racism, degradation, and loss: a slave on an Alabama plantation is whipped “until the blood on the ground is high enough to bathe a baby”; a freedman in Baltimore fears being sent back South with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act; a Ghanan woman is driven mad from the abuse of a missionary and her husband’s injury in a tribal war; a woman in Harlem is increasingly distanced from (and then humiliated by) her husband, who passes as white. Gyasi is a deeply empathetic writer, and each of the novel’s 14 chapters is a savvy character portrait that reveals the impact of racism from multiple perspectives. It lacks the sweep that its premise implies, though: while the characters share a bloodline, and a gold-flecked stone appears throughout the book as a symbolic connector, the novel is more a well-made linked story collection than a complex epic. Yet Gyasi plainly has the talent to pull that off: “I will be my own nation,” one woman tells a British suitor early on, and the author understands both the necessity of that defiance and how hard it is to follow through on it.

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94713-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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