Entertaining and delicious Stuart-era scandalmongering.

THE FALLEN ANGEL

The final installment of Borman’s lively trilogy—begun in The King's Witch (2018) and The Devil's Slave (2019)—about a secretly Catholic woman embedded in the treacherous court of King James I.

Frances, now mother of two sons, has again left her country retreat for James’ court, this time due to her own mixed concern and longing for her husband, Sir Thomas Tyringham, whose duties as master of buckhounds keep him locked into the busy royal hunting schedule. At court, excitement mounts thanks to an element the first two volumes of this series lacked: a truly diabolical antagonist. Frances is not exactly welcome at court—in fact, ladies-in-waiting have no function since Queen Anne now lives apart from the king. James’ closest and most powerful advisers are now his male “favourites”—and the newest and most virulently scheming of these is George Villiers. Thanks to his angelic looks, seductive charm, and complete lack of scruples, Villiers is soon the king’s de facto consort, garnering the Order of the Garter and a dukedom along the way. Villiers is vicious to anyone in that way, including Thomas, whose work life Villiers, as master of horse, makes miserable—he is the ultimate bad boss. Villiers is also responsible for the loss of Frances’ pregnancy when he deliberately causes her to fall. Despite this, and Villiers’ threats to leverage her deepest secrets against her, Frances seems remarkably slow to anger, and the lengthy timeline dilutes the conflict—the action here spans 14 years. Also straining belief is the number of occasions Frances stumbles, unobserved, upon Villiers’ depraved assignations. Frances’ overriding aim is to restore Catholicism to England: In this she is joined by other closet Catholics, including the crown prince, Charles, and Kate, an heiress whom Villiers will stop at nothing, literally, to wed for her money. Scenes starring Villiers come alive as the other characters cope, ineffectually and overcautiously, with the viper in their midst.

Entertaining and delicious Stuart-era scandalmongering.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5761-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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An exhilarating ride through Americana.

THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY

Newly released from a work farm in 1950s Kansas, where he served 18 months for involuntary manslaughter, 18-year-old Emmett Watson hits the road with his little brother, Billy, following the death of their father and the foreclosure of their Nebraska farm.

They leave to escape angry townspeople who believe Emmett got off easy, having caused the fatal fall of a taunting local boy by punching him in the nose. The whip-smart Billy, who exhibits OCD–like symptoms, convinces Emmett to drive them to San Francisco to reunite with their mother, who left town eight years ago. He insists she's there, based on postcards she sent before completely disappearing from their lives. But when Emmett's prized red Studebaker is "borrowed" by two rambunctious, New York–bound escapees from the juvie facility he just left, Emmett takes after them via freight train with Billy in tow. Billy befriends a Black veteran named Ulysses who's been riding the rails nonstop since returning home from World War II to find his wife and baby boy gone. A modern picaresque with a host of characters, competing points of view, wandering narratives, and teasing chapter endings, Towles' third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). You can quibble with one or two plot turns, but there's no resisting moments such as Billy's encounter, high up in the Empire State Building in the middle of the night, with professor Abacus Abernathe, whose Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers he's read 24 times. A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, Towles' novel is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history.

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522235-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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