Excitingly illuminates an ancient class of warriors despite a few missteps.


From the Brotherhood of the Mamluks series , Vol. 1

Debut author Graft’s historical novel follows a young, kidnapped nomad in the Middle East.

Near the upper Volga River in 1236, Duyal goes about his regular duties as a Kipchak. The Kipchaks are a migratory people whose lives revolve around the animals they tend. It’s not an easy existence, and it’s made even more difficult by raids from enemies. After a devastating attack by Mongols, Duyal is enslaved and taken from the steppe. His final destination is a citadel in the city of Hisn Kayfa in what is present-day Turkey. The citadel, like Duyal, belongs to a powerful prince named al-Salih Ayyub. The plan is to turn Duyal, along with other captured boys, from wild children of the East into Mamluk warriors. The boys train with swords, lances, and bows. If life on the steppe was hard, life in the citadel is almost unbearable. Many of the boys will fail the difficult training, and some will even die. Those who pass, however, will become fearsome warriors. Will Duyal be among the victorious? That question is answered stage by excruciating stage. The text abounds with evocative portrayals, like that of the city Hisn Kayfa: “Upstream, the blue-muddied river winds its way through irrigated fields of green, the rich foliage eventually tapering to tan.” Many particulars are time-appropriate and interesting; for example, in bow training, Duyal doesn’t jump directly to the massive qaw. He and the other recruits must instead work their way up from smaller weapons like the flexible kabad. However, the spell of an ancient environment sometimes falters with lines of modern dialogue. One novice is asked “What’s your malfunction?” and the reader may be left to wonder whether they hadn’t been transported some 700 years into the future world of Full Metal Jacket. Despite such anachronisms, there is an exciting urgency to Duyal’s survival and the greater question of what he will do should he make it through the program.

Excitingly illuminates an ancient class of warriors despite a few missteps.

Pub Date: May 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9996338-5-4

Page Count: 468

Publisher: The Sager Group

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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