THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM

A rich, immersive narrative founded on impeccable scholarship.

Second in Pike’s trilogy about ethnic, political, and religious strife in sixth-century Celtic Britain.

Pike’s intent in this trilogy, as expressed in her exhaustive author’s note, is twofold: to reconstruct a factual basis for Arthurian legend and to shed more light on Languoreth, a queen who was outshone in history by her brother Lailoken, later known as Myrddin—or Merlin. The action covers the period from 572 to 580 C.E. Languoreth is the wife of Rhydderch, heir apparent to King Tutgual, and her brother is a Wisdom Keeper and a warrior in Uther Pendragon’s Dragon Warriors. War ignites as Tutgual’s forces, led by Rhydderch in alliance with the depraved pedophile Gwrgi, march on the Dragons. Because of her brother’s affiliations, Languoreth endures house arrest in Tutgual’s hall despite the fact that her oldest son, Rhys, is fighting on Tutgual’s side and the fact that her mother-in-law, Queen Elufed, (a Pict, which will prove significant later) is her ally. The third protagonist here is Angharad, 9-year-old daughter of Languoreth and Rhydderch. The child accompanies the Dragons to their stronghold to further her training as a Wisdom Keeper, but she is caught up in a siege. After the Dragons’ defeat in a catastrophic battle, the three principals disperse along separate paths. Lailoken goes into exile, Angharad falls in with Picts and priestesses, and, as her husband’s political fortunes increase, Languoreth seems to resign herself to her marriage of convenience. Artur (Arthur) is introduced as a minor character. With its plethora of information on the ethnicities, languages, and geography of post-Roman Britain, this novel might risk having only niche appeal if it weren't for the propulsive plot and flawed humanity of its characters. Invading Germanic Angles will sorely test the Celts’ always questionable ability to unify in defense. Pike continues to elucidate the feminist struggles of the matriarchal Old Way against encroaching patriarchal Christianity. Languoreth’s role remains diminished, less by Lailoken than by the constraints imposed on women by noblesse oblige.

A rich, immersive narrative founded on impeccable scholarship.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9145-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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THE WOMEN

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

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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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