An often complex and exciting fantasy with a few flaws.


From the The Chronicles of Cloth and Crystal series , Vol. 2

A young witch seeks to break a magical gem’s hold over her in this sequel.

Sixteen-year-old Elan Montescue of the Riege is a memory witch, able to read recollections through crystals and pieces of cloth. In this fantasy series’ first book, Elan left the safety of her Keep planning to avenge her family’s murder, and discovered an outside world full of warring factions. She also met Stille Vespers, her “Anaiah,” a boy her age who’s a kind of human crystal. After using a special “rubystone” to bring Stille back to life, she’s now in thrall to the gem. It wants her to meet with Catherine, the mother who abandoned Elan when she was 5, in the city of Darine. But Catherine is now allied to Our Master, a despot with powers of his own; he rules Karator, across the Impassable River, and plans to invade the Riege. Refugees from Karator live a precarious life in the Riege, where they are mistrusted and scapegoated, but they too hate the Master. Kontessa, a Karator girl with a silver hand—symbolizing resistance to the Master—makes her way to Darine, as does King Marcellus, who survived a coup attempt by a religious sect and now travels in disguise to learn more about his realm. As a great conflict brews, things look dire—but a girl’s voice from the rubystone tells Elan of a way to defeat the Master. Can the voice be trusted? In this rich novel, Dillon (The Memory Witch, 2018, etc.) deftly weaves all these disparate strands together, giving readers a more comprehensive view of the Riege, Karator, and the people of this world. Strong action sequences enliven the plot, which sometimes bogs down a bit in the teenagers’ melodramatic emotions. For example, when Elan tells Stille about his miraculous rescue, he immediately concludes: “You’ve turned me into a monster. . . . I should be dead.” In addition, cloth and crystal magic, so original and integral to the first volume, plays little role here, which is somewhat disappointing.

An often complex and exciting fantasy with a few flaws.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73347-540-2

Page Count: 404

Publisher: RJA Enterprises

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2019

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

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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