A promising first installment in a strange blend of theological horror.

The Key

From the The Incarnations of Joe series , Vol. 1

An intriguing supernatural tale in which a young man uncovers a hidden truth about his heritage.

At the start of Weatherall’s tense and atmospheric debut, the first in a projected series, the Magister family—17-year-old Joe; his mother, Madeline; and his loutish, alcoholic stepfather, Will—are driving through a snowstorm in Ontario’s remote Nahanni Valley when they accidentally hit a wolf on the road. The year is 1960, long before GPS or cellphones, and Joe’s stepfather drives off from the impact without a second thought. Joe, however, agonizes at the thought of the wounded animal out there in the dark. He slips away from home late that night intent on finding the wolf—and finding in the process much more than he expected. When he finally stumbles back home, he’s changed—immune to cold, tireless, and preternaturally perceptive. In subsequent days, he encounters a mysterious woman named Tereene who unfolds to him not only his true nature, but also the supernatural underpinnings of reality itself, in which, she explains, souls get stronger as they age and feed on emotions, eventually becoming powerful, angel-like beings, but even so, as his own personal transformation continues, Joe wonders if he’s given his soul to the devil. Weatherall manipulates the many moving parts of this new cosmology with skill and economy. His simply evil characters tend to feel a bit pat, and Joe’s journey from innocent youth to otherworldly warrior is one readers of horror fantasy have seen many times before. But the tale is told with vigor and conviction nonetheless. The novel’s spiritual world—where traditional notions of good and evil are richly confused and complicated—is one the reader must navigate right alongside Joe.

A promising first installment in a strange blend of theological horror.

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-46-026629-8

Page Count: 264

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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