A historically sharp and dramatically stirring love story.

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ANNE AND CHARLES

PASSION AND POLITICS IN LATE MEDIEVAL FRANCE: THE STORY OF ANNE OF BRITTANY'S MARRIAGE TO CHARLES VIII

From the Anne of Brittany series , Vol. 1

A historical dramatization of the 15th-century marriage between Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII of France.

Upon the death of Anne’s father, Duke Francis II, she becomes the ruler of Brittany at the tender age of 11. Determined not to have her authority usurped by meddling advisers or foreign powers, she searches for a suitable husband whose allegiance will bring peace and security to Brittany. She’s offered protection—as well as condolences—by King Charles VIII of France, but she rejects his offer as an imperialist scheme to gain dominion over Brittany’s lands. In response to what he perceives as defiance, he attempts to impose French rule by force. Meanwhile, Charles has problems of his own. When his own detestable father died, he was too young to ascend to the throne, and so he labors under the officious rule of his sister, Anne de Beaujeu, the Duchess of Bourbon, who serves as regent until he reaches the age of majority. Charles eventually offers Anne a path to peace. If she marries him, he’ll immediately end his siege of Brittany. She’s filled with resentment, though, over his harsh treatment of Brittany and suspicious of any brokered compromise that surrenders her authority or ensures the future of Brittany will be in submission to a foreign ruler. Also, there’s the thorny problem of her marriage to Maximilian, the Archduke of Austria, who will one day become the Holy Roman Emperor, and an arrangement for Charles to marry his daughter, Marguerite. Gaston’s (Sense of Touch: Love and Duty at Anne of Brittany’s Court, 2016, etc.) research is admirably thorough—she artfully brings to life 15th-century Europe. Also, while the court politics of the day were knottily complex, she disentangles it all with laudable clarity. Gaston’s writing is elegant and historically authentic but also accessible. She doesn’t burden the reader with an endless train of linguistic anachronisms in order to achieve historical accuracy. Further, the romance between Anne and Charles is touchingly presented, one that traveled from suspicion and resentment through sober pragmatism to genuine love.

A historically sharp and dramatically stirring love story.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 452

Publisher: Renaissance Editions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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