A well-rounded cliffhanger of an opening to a series likely to engage fans of medieval-themed fantasy.

Invasion Of The Ortaks

THE KNIGHT

In the first installment of Benónýsson’s Invasion of the Ortaks fantasy series, a tale of political intrigue and unlikely camaraderie takes shape on the continent of Esthopia.

When Carl the Ranger is almost murdered by two foreign soldiers in the wilderness, it becomes clear that something sinister inhabits the otherwise peaceful Esthopian nation of Eniktronia. Saved in the nick of time by the battle-ready Princess Egny—the niece of Eniktronia’s King Haakon—Carl travels with her through the countryside, attacking the encampments of these dark-clad invaders. While lodged at an inn for the night, enemies posing as local tavern-goers make an attempt on her life. News of the attack reaches the king, who sends Sir Klaus eastward across the outlaw-riddled Bending Pass and into the country of Antonia to learn more about the assassination plot. As the knight makes his way, he and his team uncover a conspiracy that implicates even Eniktronia’s closest allies. What’s more, they confirm fears that inhabitants of Orknia, a southern land, separated from Esthopia by sea, have seized the port of Rutan and declared war on the continent. In the middle of this tumult, the team also helps Egny face the onus of royal responsibility when her grandfather, the king of Otanga, dies and leaves her a special inheritance. The novel, filled with well-wrought adventure, hosts a large cast, from the warm Asgrim to the foolhardy Gils, their back stories as attention-grabbing as the main narrative. We learn, for instance, the unsettling history of Christopher, a trader who freed two condemned slaves and joined forces with Klaus against the incoming Ortaks. Given its whirlwindlike pace, the plot’s speed sometimes comes at the expense of clarity but never so much as to obscure the essentials. Benónýsson convincingly sketches the lives of handfuls of Esthopians who, faced with the prospect of war with a brutal tribe and betrayal among their ranks, band together—building interest for the series’ next installment.

A well-rounded cliffhanger of an opening to a series likely to engage fans of medieval-themed fantasy.

Pub Date: May 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-312-13310-5

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2015

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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