A hilarious tale that has fun with fantasy tropes while also living up to their grandeur.

MANNETHORN'S KEY

BOOK ONE OF THE KEY OF LIFE TRILOGY

In this fantasy debut, a man with everything going wrong in his everyday life finds himself transported to a magical realm on the brink of cataclysm.

Math whiz and former derivatives broker Bartholomew Waxman of Vancouver, British Columbia, is jobless. He’s hit bottom after living the high life and cheating on his now-ex-wife, Barb. Desperate to pay the rent on his firetrap apartment, Bart decides to interview for a job at fast-food restaurant Burger Buddha. Manager Tony Threebears hires him, but after the interview, Bart suffers a strange out-of-body experience. Meanwhile, in the realm of Drageverden, two magical schools prepare for war. The benign Zhin and the malevolent Han have displaced a race of dragons called the Uktena. Algarth Willowbrow, the last living ZhinFantha (wizard-warrior) of the Sitting Six, dwells in the spell-fortified fortress of Phandomer’s Rock. One day, he’s attacked by evil wizard Grailborn, who’s broken a crystal branch from the enchanted Forest of Chakshsist for the purpose. Algarth, however, is a worthy foe who can balance positive and negative magics into a singular force. As their fight begins, Bart journeys into a place called the Between, where he must choose between the void—ending his life—or a destiny revolving around the Key of Life, which can bring peace to Drageverden. In this smashingly good debut, Lindley treads as closely as possible to a parody of the fantasy genre while also retaining an epic feel. Humor abounds, as when Bart “delivered himself like a death-row inmate to the front counter” of Burger Buddha. Later, he has an exceptionally hard time making it to the battlefield; in the Between, he matches wits with the Guardian of the Gate, whose rules result in Bart’s experiencing numerous violent “deaths”—delaying his arrival in Drageverden. Lindley intriguingly draws on Native American culture with antlered serpents called the Uktena; also, Tony knows from reservation life that sometimes people just need a second chance. The annihilation of the village of Driish, meanwhile, will prove to readers that anything can happen in this chaotic, inventive opening to a series.

A hilarious tale that has fun with fantasy tropes while also living up to their grandeur.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-979396-91-2

Page Count: 374

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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