A solid adventure with a determined heroine.

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THE MEMORY WITCH

From the The Chronicles of Cloth and Crystal series , Vol. 1

A teenage girl who has magical powers that affect recollections sets out to avenge her family in this fantasy series opener.

When Elan Montescue was 6 years old, her family’s villa was burned and her father and brother murdered. Thanks to her loyal tutor, Gregor, Elan escaped, fleeing to an ancient Keep in the mountains. The girl vowed revenge, using her powers as a “memory witch.” By using crystals and pieces of cloth to focus her abilities, Elan can gather memories from people and also force them to remember what they’d prefer to forget. The day after her 16th birthday, she leaves the safety of the Keep to hunt down and kill the men who destroyed her family. She ventures out into Riege, where the political situation is precarious. The elderly king is growing weak, opening a power vacuum that the Order, a religious group, is ruthlessly maneuvering to fill while the Karators—red-skinned foreigners said to be savage—are restless. As she searches, Elan faces enormous danger on several sides. But she may be able to connect with the “Anaiah,” a boy her age who’s a perfect match; this human crystal grants a memory witch extraordinary power. And some in Riege stand against the Order. Can Elan gather these strengths to work her retribution? Though there are familiar elements to this coming-of-age quest tale, Dillon (Mr. Kunz, 2018, etc.) conjures up an original take with the cloth-and-crystal-magic theme. Crystals are the more traditional magical item; but as Elan uses the cloth, it becomes clearer how certain colors, weaves, and other particularities relate well to the differing textures of memory. The author also nicely integrates a romantic plot, when Elan meets her Anaiah—whose first touch causes literal sparks—with several mysteries, both political (What has the Order been up to? What do the Karators intend?) and personal (what has become of Elan’s mother, Catherine, who left her when she was very young, and why did she depart?). While Book One comes to a satisfactory conclusion, the groundwork is set for future volumes in the series.

A solid adventure with a determined heroine.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-578-40450-9

Page Count: 360

Publisher: RJA Enterprises

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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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

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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

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