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

THE LAST SEER KING

From the Shadow Sword series , Vol. 2

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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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