This is first-rate historical fiction that any fan of the genre will enjoy.

SHARPE'S ASSASSIN

Richard Sharpe is fierce and fearless in his 22nd adventure for king and country.

The British have just defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, but a whole lot of blood is yet to be shed. As Lt. Col. Richard Sharpe helps his riflemen bury British dead, he receives orders from the Duke of Wellington to capture a citadel in a French town called Ham ("as in eggs") and release its prisoners, specifically Alan Fox, who trades in artworks and is making a list of stolen paintings. “So I’m to do the impossible,” he remarks, and is told “you have the devil’s own luck” and “you excel at dirty business.” Sharpe is a great series character who doesn’t fit the officer mold. He is the gutter-born bastard son of a prostitute and a random whorehouse customer. He’d been a rank-and-file soldier with deep scars on his back from flogging until the duke noticed his intelligence and bravery and made him an officer. But wouldn’t you know, now under his command is the captain who’d once had him flogged. No hard feelings, though? Think again. Sharpe threatens to flay the skin off the captain’s back if he orders any more floggings of the men. They are to go to Paris so Sharpe can find and kill a group of assassins known as la Fraternité, which either exists or is medieval claptrap. Vicious fights ensue in Parisian tunnels and in the open air. Sharpe’s formidable antagonist is the French Col. Lanier, a killing machine known as le Monstre, whose pleasures are “women, wine, and death to his enemies.” Their forces must meet—Sharpe has a battalion—and so must the two ferocious leaders. For them and their men, “it would be such a stupid time to die. The war was won.” And yet there’s still time for spectacular combat scenes, with swords and volley guns and thumbs in the eyes.  

This is first-rate historical fiction that any fan of the genre will enjoy.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-256-326-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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An exhilarating ride through Americana.

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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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