An often complex and exciting fantasy with a few flaws.

THE EMBERS OF ELDEN

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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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