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KIBOGO

Pensive and lyrical; a closely observed story of cultures in collision.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • National Book Award Finalist


  • NBCC Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize Finalist

A searing tale of contending gods, religions, and economies in colonial Rwanda.

As Mukasonga’s story opens, a village subchief, bribed by a "Colonial" with “a watch, a pair of sunglasses, a bottle of port wine, two jerry cans of gasoline, [and] a swath of fabric for his wife and daughters,” rounds up the children to serve in the war effort against Germany by harvesting anti-malarial flowers. Other agents of change follow: There are the European agronomists who come in to demand that the villagers replace their formerly diverse crops with beans and coffee, then the priests who come in to demand that they give up their “pagan” religious practices in favor of “Yezu.” Drought ensues, and with it the people starve, and with that they recall the old ways, when their king would sacrifice himself or one of his family. Kibogo, the legendary son of a king, offers himself up in one such sacrifice, volunteering in a long-ago time to climb a nearby mountain and call down the clouds in the face of sure death. That high country harbors others who are convinced of their magical powers. One is Akayezu, or “Little Jesus,” who enters a French seminary only to decide that he has divine powers of his own and, without waiting for ordination, preaches a gospel that “compared Kibogo rising to Heaven to Yezu’s ascension, Maria’s Assumption, and the abduction of the prophet Elijah on a pikipiki of thunder and flame.” Akayezu’s evangelization extends to a hermit who herself believes that she has a spirit within that “commands the rain.” When the rain does arrive, it comes in punishing torrents and violent thunderstorms that put terror in the hearts of the villagers: “Some jangled rosaries, others gourd rattles, or the bones of warthogs or of their ancestors.” It’s satisfying to see the colonial experts and intrusive priests get some measure of comeuppance while Kibogo makes his return to bring, finally, more sustaining rains, proving, as Mukasonga’s narrator has it, that “Kibogo too can shake the sky and set off the thunder: isn’t the tale of Kibogo equal to the tale of Yezu?”

Pensive and lyrical; a closely observed story of cultures in collision.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1953861-36-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

Categories:

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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