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THE LAST SEER KING

From the Shadow Sword series , Vol. 2

A triumphant tale that will certainly appeal to lovers of dense, intricate fantasies with strong characters and fully...

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In this sequel, a lord tries to resurrect a ghoul changeling in a war-ravaged world.

A great battle has ended in a kingdom indebted to an array of gods—and where ghouls attack unprotected villages—with an Isles victory. But ghoul changeling Kaell is dead; Lord Vraymorg is wounded; and the new king, Gendrick Caelan, has forged an alliance with a most unlikely friend: Archanin, the ghoul god. Ice Lord Heath Damadar, continually playing multiple sides of a complicated political game, must bring Prince Aric Caelan, the military commander of the Isles, to Myranthe, Damadar’s sister. She intends to raise the legendary death riders once again. Lord Vraymorg, having been revealed to warriors in the heat of battle as Val Arques, “the king’s man,” who has lived for hundreds of years, attempts to resurrect his charge Kaell with ancient blood magic. Unbeknown to him, his attempt works, bringing Kaell back in the dying body of Princess Azenor. When Lord Vraymorg and Aric are abducted by Damadar at Myranthe’s request, Kaell flees in his unfamiliar body. He is captured by Varee slavers and introduced to the serious and solemn warrior Dannon. Having defeated Dannon in a duel, Kaell, who now calls himself Kate, is made to renounce the war god Khir and swear allegiance to the god of the Varee, at least until he can determine whether or not Lord Vraymorg still lives. In Hartland’s (The 19th Bladesman, 2018) tale of intrigue, the stories of several well-developed characters, all with their own motivations, fears, and destinies, come together to tell the larger, complex saga of this violent, ruthless, war-torn world. (The book features a useful map of this realm at the front and a list of dramatis personae at the back that clarifies characters’ roles.) As in the series’ previous installment, this novel weaves interpersonal battles, political conflict, and fast-paced action into a tale chock full of fantasy adventures sure to please fans of the genre. Though the first novel was very well written, this second volume proves that Hartland is improving as she presses forward, with more convincing characterization and a story that reads smoothly and swiftly.

A triumphant tale that will certainly appeal to lovers of dense, intricate fantasies with strong characters and fully realized worlds.

Pub Date: July 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-648-43723-9

Page Count: 609

Publisher: Dark Blade Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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