A vibrant, fast-paced, and tense fusion of epic fantasy and hard-boiled detective yarn.




This second volume in a series explores the war between Elves and humans in the realms of the Verin Empire.

The latest from Ray (Gedlund, 2014) continues the broad outline of his debut novel while striking a different register. In a switch from high fantasy to gumshoe mystery (and in a shift to nearly 10 years after the incidents in the first installment), the narrative this time focuses on the character Gus Baston, a wayward private eye in the bustling city of Gemmen. Gus is dodging his memories of the events of the previous book (“The war against Gedlund’s armies of grasping dead and the chilling laughter of its Everlords as they descended from the sky”). He goes from one paying job to the next, drowning his memories in alcohol amid Gemmen’s nightlife. When Gus takes a new case that eventually embroils him in the kidnapping of a prominent engineer, he’s thrust into the complicated and dangerous politics of insurrection. The Elves of the Verin Empire seek their return to power in the Great Restoration, an event long thwarted by the proliferating human use of magic-negating iron in ever expanding railway systems and obelisks. It seems that after a generation of quiet, the Elven Wardens have emerged to kidnap the key engineer of the system slowly strangling their future. The rich fantasy world Ray introduced in the series opener, a fun-house-mirror blending of Victorian-era technology and sword-and-sorcery staples like elves and magic, is here steadily and very skillfully elaborated. The author’s ear for dramatic stagecraft succeeds in bringing his large cast of secondary characters to life. Fans of detailed alternate-urban fantasies like the New Crobuzon tales of China Miéville should enjoy the ways Ray fleshes out the rich palaces and mean streets of both the city of Gemmen and the far frontiers where the larger background themes of empires in conflict and colonialism play out. This is intricate fantasy work in a minor key.

A vibrant, fast-paced, and tense fusion of epic fantasy and hard-boiled detective yarn.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5498-4450-8

Page Count: 491

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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