A weird, wonderful installment of a fantasy saga that’s inching toward greatness.




This sequel to Cole’s (Henry’s Re-entry, 2014, etc.) epic fantasy The Pleasure of Memory (2013) sees disparate members of an ancient order preparing for battle against a villainous fire mage.

The art of magic, which is based on the mysterious Caeyl stones, is dying out in the land of Calevia. Following the events of the previous book, the thieving rogue Beam is also dying, but luckily he has the Caeyllth Blade, which houses the rare Blood Caeyl stone. Inside a vast crypt, his friend Chance Gnoman, along with the Baeldonian giant Jhom, place the physically ravaged Beam inside a tent so that the magic stone can heal him. Elsewhere, another Baeldon named Wenzil interrogates his captive, the Vaemysh Mawby, and learns that they are both members of the Lamys te’Faht (the Eye of the Faithful), part of a lineage of cleric knights who await signs of impending dark times. According to the occult order’s legends, the rise of a Fire Caeyl Mage will herald the end of civilization and the return of the Divinic Demons. It turns out that Prae the Biled, Chance’s nemesis, is that mage, and it’s up to the Lamys te’Faht to halt his demonic army. Sibling smugglers Lucifeus and Malevolus, however, have already caught some Vaemysh trackers on their lands who appear to be demonically possessed, which escalates the war. This second volume of Cole’s saga, like the first, uses dialogue-heavy chapters to illuminate the meticulously crafted corners of his world; one of the most thrilling tells of the exorcism of a demon being. The difference in this installment is that the stakes have risen sharply, and fantasy readers should strap in for a dark, twisted ride—even if most of the narrative merely sets up a potentially more intense third volume. Cole’s prose is evocative, as always; he describes Beam’s injuries, for example, as a “torn map of flesh.” There are also great philosophical moments, as when Wenzil says, “Hope’s a deep well....Sometimes there’s water at the bottom, sometimes there just ain’t.” The very best chapters deal with Beam’s inward journey and expose the startling history of Calevia. Overall, this book offers great rewards for Cole’s loyal readers.

A weird, wonderful installment of a fantasy saga that’s inching toward greatness.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0989424974

Page Count: 520

Publisher: Caelstone Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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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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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.


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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