A dramatically engrossing and historically searching tale about a powerful duchess.

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ANNE AND LOUIS

PASSION AND POLITICS IN EARLY RENAISSANCE FRANCE

From the Anne of Brittany series , Vol. 2

In 1498, Anne of Brittany pines to marry King Louis XII of France, but considerable political hurdles must first be cleared in this sequel. 

Anne is the duchess of Brittany and the sovereign ruler of the land now that her husband, the philandering Charles VIII, has died. She deeply loves Louis XII and he returns her affections. The two yearn to have a child together, but Anne refuses to entertain his offer of marriage until he can legitimately annul his union with Princess Jeanne of France. Jeanne is a decent woman but is grotesquely deformed physically and incapable of bearing the child for whom Louis so desperately pines. Problematically, Jeanne is exceedingly popular with the people, so Louis must tread carefully in dissolving the union. While he was forced by Jeanne’s father to wed her out of practical concerns, he was still at the age of consent (14 years old) and he did consummate the marriage. Louis turns to Pope Alexander VI, reliably corrupt, for his blessing but in return must grant his eldest son, Cesare Borgia, an elevated title and a French princess. Cesare chooses Charlotte of Naples, but she rejects his attentions—she is “one of the most refined maids of honor at Anne’s court,” and he is repulsively coarse as well as infamously dangerous, reputed to have murdered his own brother. Cesare, though, remains obstinate: “The young braggadocio had taken up residence nearby and wouldn’t leave France until he had gotten what he came for: a noble French bride, preferably a princess.” Gaston (Anne and Charles, 2018) continues her dramatic exploration of Anne’s life, and as in the novel’s predecessor, the duchess’s extraordinary travails and triumphs are depicted in lively, expressive terms. In addition, the author’s historical research is scrupulous and exacting, down to the dialogue. Gaston expertly depicts Anne’s—and Brittany’s—predicament (“She would return to Brittany and Louis would follow, should he obtain his annulment. She would not consent to become his wife unless a marriage contract was signed that assured her full rights as sole sovereign and administrator of her duchy”). In addition, the author skillfully explores the intersection of the French world with a budding Italian Renaissance. 

A dramatically engrossing and historically searching tale about a powerful duchess.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 346

Publisher: Renaissance Editions

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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