Vivid worldbuilding makes this sci-fi tale a strong series opener.



From the Adalta series , Vol. 1

In this debut novel, a covert agent who’s supposed to stay unattached becomes involved in countering evil forces threatening a planet she’s come to love.

As undercover advance agent for a peaceful trade consortium, Marta Rowan, 22, has her usual mission, this time on Adalta, surveying and collecting samples. But from the first, little goes as planned. Marta’s usually effective empathic dampers break down; equipment fails; and most troublingly, her director wants to contravene prohibitions by interfering in local laws to permit trade in technology and advanced weapons. As part of her cover, Marta joins patrollers who ride the Karda, huge, beautiful creatures half hawk, half horse. On her travels with Sidhari, the Karda who selects her, Marta meets tall, graceful, arrogant Altan Me’Gerron and sparks fly—literally—when they touch, one of many strange occurrences and references Marta can’t understand. What, for example, does it mean that Readen, the eldest son of Restal Quadrant’s Guardian, was born without “talent”? Why is Restal so troubled by blight and fear? As for Readen, he’s nurturing twisted plans to gain corrupted power from a source thought to be long buried—schemes that will target Marta and gravely endanger Adalta. Bonded to Sidhari, drawn to Altan, and changed by Adalta, Marta finds herself at the center of a dangerous struggle for the soul of the planet. In this first installment of a sci-fi series, Nilson presents a fully lived-in, well-thought-out world. Adalta’s culture is a beguiling mix of medieval-ish through Victorian era technology, minus the coal smoke and plus some intriguing elemental magic, not to mention the magnificent Karda. Themes tend to repeat themselves, with characters slow to make realizations and some episodes described at perhaps unnecessary length. Readers who enjoy immersive detail may not mind, and when things do start to move along, the author deftly holds the audience’s interest with new developments, backstory, and deepening relationships. A few clichés hamper the storytelling, like a clearly beautiful heroine who doesn’t think she is and romance through mutual irritation, but these are minor missteps.

Vivid worldbuilding makes this sci-fi tale a strong series opener.

Pub Date: July 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73227-290-3

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Karda

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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