An often captivating continuation of a fantasy saga.

READ REVIEW

Invasion Of The Ortaks

THE DEFEAT

The fantastical land of Esthopia remains plagued by the power-hungry and malicious Ortaks in this second installment of Benónýsson’s (Invasion of the Ortaks: The Knight, 2014) series.

The story opens with the drowning death of Queen Jofrid of Serpenia in a savage storm. As the Esthopians fret over the spread of the brutal Ortaks, they also face another, more ghoulish threat: creatures from the underworld, first encountered by Queen Jofrid’s lieutenant and his men. The frightened armies, noblemen, and kings of Eniktronia, Montania, and Serpenia face off against the Ortaks and King Armus in a spectacular battle at Broad Valley. But their heroism is offset by their lack of experience, and the Ortaks’ strategic attacks lay waste to them. Meanwhile, King Ethan and Princess Hilda of Alfheim—the land of the elves—and their aides transport themselves to the land of men to inform them of their new supernatural enemies: bull-riding Demons, ferocious wolflike creatures, and the Necromancers who summon them. A ragtag band of soldiers who escaped death at Broad Valley, led by an archer named Axel, find protection together while Queen Maria of Montania and her daughters flee to Storm Castle. Another part-elven hero, Tania, saves Queen Egny of Otanga. The chaos of the setting is reflected in the novel’s tendency to switch jarringly from one plotline to the next and from grand panoramas of Esthopia to individual portraits of its inhabitants as they struggle to stay alive—such as Sir William at Crown Castle, whose valiant attempt to deflect the Ortaks’ siege ends in carnage. However, it also delivers acute descriptions of politics, as an eccentric array of characters from disparate, even hostile, backgrounds find themselves adrift together in a war-torn world. It also tantalizingly refuses to hint at the final outcome regarding the plight of Esthopia and its people.

An often captivating continuation of a fantasy saga. 

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-9-93-592621-0

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more