While backstories can be dense, this Muslim war tale delivers gripping action scenes.


From the Brotherhood of the Mamluks series , Vol. 2

This second installment of a historical fiction series focuses on 13th-century Muslim warriors.

The year is 1249, and a man named Leander is a soldier in Egypt. Leander and his comrades are Mamluks: highly trained fighters typically of Kipchak descent who are usually sold as slaves. But Leander is different. He hails from France and once served as a translator for Walter IV of Brienne. He is as skilled with language as he is with weapons. He decided to defect to the enemy just before the decisive fighting in La Forbie in 1244, and, as luck would have it, he chose the winning side. When the story begins, Leander is preparing to fight against the very Crusaders he once assisted. King Louis IX of France plans to attack Egypt. The Egyptians, though, are ready. And while the Crusaders will largely prove to be less-than-formidable foes (ultimately debilitated by disease and their own lack of organization), the Egyptians have plenty of other things to worry about. Graft’s (Chains of Nobility, 2018) narrative follows Leander and Ox and Cenk, two fellow Mamluks, as they do their best to survive in a brutal world of warfare and political double-crosses. It may take readers several pages to fully understand Leander’s background. But once the Crusaders begin landing in Egypt, the madness of the age becomes apparent. From a knight’s sinking into the ocean in his own armor to a number of decapitations, the violence is never glamorous. At one point, Leander is instructed to kill any Crusaders weakened by disease (“Their thin arms held out in defense are now just limbs to be hewn off the trunk”). Although the action is engrossing, several flashbacks concerning the main characters are not as edifying. For instance, readers are told matter-of-factly over a few pages how Cenk is a top military instructor. He is “seen as a living legend,” though this information pales in excitement to the more immediate threats from warriors with swords and arrows. Yet in the end, a time of nearly unthinkable conflict is vividly brought to life.

While backstories can be dense, this Muslim war tale delivers gripping action scenes.    

Pub Date: June 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-950154-05-0

Page Count: 356

Publisher: The Sager Group LLC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2020

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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