Impressively well-researched historical fiction conveyed with dramatic verve.

ANNE AND LOUIS: RULERS AND LOVERS

THE MIDDLE YEARS OF ANNE OF BRITTANY'S MARRIAGE TO LOUIS XII

From the Anne of Brittany series , Vol. 3

In this third installment of a series, Anne of Brittany and her husband, Louis XII, the king of France, struggle to agree on a future husband for their daughter, a choice with high political stakes.

Initially, the decision regarding the marital future of Princess Claude of France is amicably made in the early 16th century by her parents. Both Anne and Louis select Charles of Luxembourg, not quite 2 years old, to one day marry their infant daughter. Their reasons for picking Charles, while different, are borne out of political strategy, lucidly depicted in this historical novel by Gaston (Anne and Louis: Passion and Politics in Early Renaissance France, 2018, etc.). Anne pushes the idea, knowing Charles is destined for great power: He’s the son of Philip of Burgundy, archduke of Austria and heir to the Holy Roman Empire, and Joanna of Castile, the daughter of Ferdinand, the king of Spain. Since Charles will one day become the Holy Roman emperor and Claude the duchess of Brittany, he surely would prevent the French usurpation of Brittany, preserving its sovereignty, a cause close to Anne’s heart. And Louis hopes that Ferdinand will support his interests in Italy. But Louis harbors a “secret desire” for Claude to wed Francis d’Angoulême, the son of a dead cousin, in order to maintain the throne within his own bloodline. Even after brokering the arrangement with Philip and Joanna, he furtively authorizes the composition of a new will that ensures the future matrimony of Claude and Francis, risking the astonished ire of Anne. In this engrossing volume of the Anne of Brittany series, the author deftly re-creates the complex political landscape of Europe, an entangled skein of agreements and acrimonies. Her mastery of the historical period is superb, and her portrayal of the social nuances of the day, painstakingly authentic. In addition, the relationship between Anne and Louis—romantically strong but politically disharmonious—is brought to vivid life (Louis’ “mind wandered to Anne. Would she remain loyal to him, should she find out one day that he had promised Claude to Francis? He could bear a rupture with Ferdinand, the Borgias, the Venetians, or the Florentines, but he couldn’t bear the thought of one with his wife”). This is a delightful blend of historical rigor and dramatic entertainment delivered in easily companionable prose. 

Impressively well-researched historical fiction conveyed with dramatic verve.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 401

Publisher: Renaissance Editions

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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