A satisfying historical novel with richly drawn characters and vivid settings.

Into the Realm of Time

A NOVEL OF THE FOURTH CENTURY ROMAN EMPIRE

A Roman general’s fate intersects with those of a disparate group of soldiers, clergy, and royalty in Prill’s debut.

In the year 372, Gen. Marcus Augustus Valerias leads his men with an iron fist and an unwavering loyalty to the Roman Empire. He relies on a small, devoted inner circle to help him maintain order over his men. They include his second- and third-in-command, Braxus and Cratus, respectively; his bodyguard, Bukarma; intelligence officer Revious; physician Olivertos; and chief administrator Jacob. When soldiers capture a Christian priest named Joseph along with a renegade band of Goths, Jacob’s surprise intervention spares him from Valerias’ brand of justice. Eventually, Joseph becomes an assistant to both Jacob and Olivertos, impressing Valerias with his skill and ability to learn new tasks. After Jacob’s death, Valerias contemplates his life and storied military career and comes to a pivotal decision. At the age of 45, having spent more than 30 years in the army, he’s ready to retire to Britannia; however, his retirement won’t be as simple as turning control of his army over to Braxus and Cratus. Valerias’ destiny becomes intertwined with those of Joseph; Claire, a widowed queen fleeing an arranged marriage; and Huns Uldric and Rao, fraternal twins whose ambitions seem limitless. Epic in scope, Prill’s expansive narrative boasts a large cast of characters whose lives connect at several different junctures in the story. The chief protagonist, Valerias, is a dynamic, forceful figure whose journey gives the narrative weight and gravitas. He finds an ideal complement in Claire, a loyal queen committed to protecting her children from the man who caused the death of her husband. The supporting characters are equally well-developed—particularly Joseph, a one-time food merchant and physician who finds strength and purpose in his Christian faith. The narrative is long, but Prill’s sturdy, workmanlike prose is sharp, and the story moves at a brisk pace. The detailed settings add another strong dimension to the novel, giving life and vitality to both the Roman Empire and Britannia.

A satisfying historical novel with richly drawn characters and vivid settings.

Pub Date: May 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9908604-2-6

Page Count: 655

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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