A clotted exposition followed by a news flash: Nicholas fiddles while Russia burns.

THE FABERGÉ SECRET

Belfoure’s fourth architectural thriller features his most aristocratic and well-placed architect to date—and the fewest thrills.

Grand Prince Dimitri Sergeyevich Markhov is the best friend of Nicholas II, czar of Russia. Although he’s had many notable commissions, his latest—a request from the czar to design a Tchaikovsky Memorial—is the most high-profile of all, and he throws himself into the project with enthusiasm. In truth, Dimitri’s wife, Princess Lara Pavlovna, offers little distraction since she’s preoccupied with all the bedmates she’s juggling. And Dimitri’s own lover, Dr. Katya Alexandrovna Golitsyn, is an accomplished pianist almost as excited as he is over the Tchaikovsky Memorial. But readers who know anything about Russian history will recognize the troubled currents beneath the surface that Belfoure presents with an air of novel discovery. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904 has cut into the czar’s popularity. So has his police force’s decision to fire on demonstrators agitating for a constitutional monarchy or the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine—a goal Katya’s newly discovered Jewish heritage makes her embrace personally. The court is honeycombed with spies, informants, and traitors. And the public jubilation greeting the birth of Alexis, Czarina Alexandra’s fifth child and first son, is seriously muffled by the royal family’s realization that the czarevich suffers from life-threatening hemophilia, an illness that will eventually (spoiler alert) draw the family into a fatally intimate relationship with the monk Rasputin. No wonder the czar is the target of repeated assassination attempts, one of them involving a creation by peerless jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé. Whatever will become of Dimitri and Katya?

A clotted exposition followed by a news flash: Nicholas fiddles while Russia burns.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7278-9086-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more