An ambitiously realized world dampened by an unfocused plot.


Judgement's Tale


A collection offers Hahn’s (The Ring and the Flag, 2015) four novellas set in his Lands of Hope fantasy realm.

In the month of Hawk, in the year 1995, ADR, a 15-year-old boy who is completely gray, drifts ashore in the Lands of Hope. Gypsy people called the Rom watch him bury his father, who didn’t survive their ocean crossing in a skiff, then adopt him as one of their own. Taking the name Solemn Judgement, the boy heads for Conar, the City of Wonders, named after the heroic Hopelord who conquered the Men of Despair centuries ago. In Conar, the magical Law has never been broken—yet Judgement unwittingly does so when he runs through a city square intended only for walking. An elf from the Sages Guild named Cedrith comes to his aid, later bringing him to the guild to learn to read and write. Elsewhere in the Lands of Hope, Trainertown waits for any adventurers sturdy enough to come back from the monstrous wilds of the Percentalion. When a band led by the warrior Haltar returns, needing food and rest, the preacher Alaetar immediately recruits them for another dangerous mission. Meanwhile, the evil Wolga Vrule lurks in an extradimensional prison, plotting with the demon Kog to shatter the peace created by the Hopelords. Hahn presents an immensely detailed world bristling with familiar fantasy elements like knights, dragons, halflings, and forbidden tomes. Even dedicated fans of the genre will be taken aback by the weight of his realm’s history and culture, which at best resembles a glittering, medieval still life. Unfortunately, those seeking an emotional payoff from Hahn’s mountainous vignettes, which rotate among Judgement, Haltar’s band, and a few others, will need patience to complete the journey. Hahn writes to conjure atmosphere, not speed toward conclusions, and the pleasure resides in lines like “[The warrior’s] words came in harsh, uneven shards as if his speech had been shaken and broken up inside his armor.” Frustratingly, despite this volume’s name, the last page ends with “to be continued.”

An ambitiously realized world dampened by an unfocused plot.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Independent Boolworm

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2016

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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