An often captivating continuation of a fantasy saga.

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

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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