An emotionally nuanced tale for those who crave fresh fantasy storytelling.

READ REVIEW

SHIFT

In this fantasy debut, widespread change comes to a realm populated by humans, dragons, and ethereal caretakers.

Ladrin, a dragon from the frigid lands of Gren Amar, has finally returned from the southern continent. His mission, like all young dragons sent south, was to observe the hot, unruly strangeness in order to expand his horizons and understand his place in the world. But there’s one rule that all pilgrims must abide: no living thing can come back with them to Gren Amar. Now, almost home and recuperating in a snowy nest, Ladrin is stunned to find that a brilliant Phoenix bird has returned with him. Meanwhile, a couple of human explorers named Thervius and Belderon find themselves trapped by snow in a cave. With their people’s blessing, the two men had left their home after uniting as mates for life. Now, they must bring home another blessing, such as jewels—or perhaps something more precious. As the cave floods, they escape, and the heat from their “heartlight” intensifies, protecting them from the elements. But eventually, their affection for each other becomes dangerous, smothering them in a “dark, red sac.” Later, Ladrin mistakes this sac for a lumpy egg, which he decides to bring to the dragons of Gren Amar. Back among the human populace, Thervius’ older brother, Janku, suffers a terrible accident while tending the family farm. Rage infects his body, creating a demon made of soot that stalks the countryside. In her meditative debut, author Henson explores themes of love, cohesion, and forgiveness using charged fantasy imagery. The ambience of her realm borders on the divine; Gren Amar’s river, for example, has “bright red gingko leaves [that] floated atop the swirling streaks of crushed turquoise and lapis lazuli.” Action sequences are invested with emotional distress, as when Janku becomes a “morphing bomb of soot that pulverized generations of work and accumulation.” A background narrative tells of a world-defining symphony that draws on the power of rocks and stones, in a process helped by a sylphlike being named Welphrym. A subtle romance between a chieftain, Marcus, and a priestess, Sophia, is refreshing, but Henson’s matter-of-fact use of gay protagonists is doubly so.

An emotionally nuanced tale for those who crave fresh fantasy storytelling.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-615-43189-5

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Sharon Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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