A solid adventure with a determined heroine.

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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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