Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, November 16, 2012

Week ending November 16, 2012

Flyte, Magnus. City of Dark Magic. Penguin Group (USA). Dec. 2012. 448p. ISBN 9780143122685. pap. $16; eISBN 9781101603062. F
Sarah Weston travels to Prague Castle to complete the work of her late mentor, Dr. Sherbasky, cataloging rare manuscripts of Beethoven. She is immediately plunged into a disturbingly oppressive atmosphere of drugs, secrets, and politics, highlighted by an unusual cast of coworkers who each have their own quirky personalities. Overshadowing all is her uneasy confusion over what really happened to Dr. Sherbasky and what he had discovered about the mysteries surrounding the recently recovered manuscripts. With the introduction of legends that Prague is home to portals to hell, the reader is dropped into a confusing entanglement of plots, personalities, and mysteries that involve alchemical elements. Some readers may find Sarah’s open sexual lifestyle a distasteful rather than romantic addition to the main story line.
Verdict While this novel may well find its own niche of faithful followers, it is, unfortunately, a miss for this reviewer. Readers looking for a fast-paced, historically rich, romantic adventure with paranormal elements would be better directed to Deborah Harkness’s “All Souls Trilogy” (A Discovery of Witches; Shadow of Night). Flyte is a pseudonym for the writing duo of Meg Howrey (The Cranes Dance) and television writer Christina Lynch.—Crystal Renfro, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib. & Information Ctr., Atlanta

Monninger, Joseph. Margaret from Maine. Plume: Penguin Group (USA). Dec. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780452298682. pap. $16; eISBN 9781101602690. F
As a wife, mother, and dairy farmer, Margaret Kennedy is the epitome of devotion–rising early to see to a farm that will never really be hers, regularly visiting her husband who was injured in war and is now in a vegetative state, and raising a son whose father will never know him. She has never been tempted to cast aside any aspect of her life, until she meets Charlie King. As an army veteran, diplomat, and brother to a vegetative patient, Charlie identifies with Margaret’s situation on many levels. When he is tasked with escorting her to Washington, DC, to witness the President sign a bill designed to increase funding for those in her husband’s condition, Margaret is not as Charlie expected but everything he wants. While they embark on a brief, passionate affair, Charlie realizes that he has little chance of having a future with Margaret while her situation remains the same.
Verdict Monninger’s (The World as We Know It) effort to create realistic characters dealing with difficult situations and set against pretty scenery results in a well-crafted tale that manages to be poignant and sweet, all at once. Recommended for fans of Nicholas Sparks.—Natasha Grant, New York

Neuhaus, Nele. Snow White Must Die. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jan. 2013. 352p. tr. from German by Steven T. Murray. ISBN 9780312604257. $24.99; eISBN 9781250012098. M
On a cold and gray November morning, Tobias Sartorius is released from prison. After ten long years, most of it in solitary confinement, Tobias goes home to a community where he is despised, his father ruined and bankrupt, and his mother mysteriously attacked the day of his return. Charged with the deaths of two local teenaged beauties, Tobias had been easily convicted, particularly since he claimed to have zero memory of the events, had been witnessed to be severely intoxicated, and had woken up the next morning in clothes drenched in blood. But something’s not right. Though miserable and plagued with feelings of guilt, Tobias remains uncertain that he committed the crimes. These doubts, combined with his mother’s death and the overture of friendship from a teenaged newcomer to the village, set the stage for a series of twists, betrayals, and assaults that keep readers turning the pages up to the unpredictable ending.
Verdict An international best seller, German author Neuhaus’s second entry in a projected five-book series (but the first to be published in English) follows two German detectives, stoic and troubled Oliver von Bodenstein and harried but intuitive Pia Kirchhoff, through an addictively engaging mystery filled with suspects, confusion, love, and fear. Sure to intrigue and satisfy mystery fans, especially those who love international crime procedurals. [See Prepub Alert, 8/20/12.]—Jennifer Rogers, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Coll. Lib., Richmond

Sanderson, Brandon. The Emperor’s Soul. Tachyon. Dec. 2012. 176p. ISBN 9781616960926. pap. $14.95. FANTASY
The forgery was a masterpiece, an almost perfect replica of a priceless work of art. The minor inconsistencies were all but impossible for even an expert to detect. However, Shai had been betrayed. Now awaiting execution, Shai would be reprieved if she could do the impossible. As a Forger, Shai is a skillful artist who can apply complex magical glyphs to rewrite the history of the item to change it completely. Although Forgers are despised, the Empire needs Shai to accomplish the unthinkable: to Forge a new soul for the Emperor.
Verdict Sanderson, the best-selling author of the “Mistborn Trilogy” and The Way of Kings, has set this novella in the same world as Elantris, one of his earlier novels, but it is totally independent. Fantasy fans will love both the compelling story and the creative magical setting.—William Baer, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta

Wilde, James. The Time of the Wolf: A Novel of Medieval England. Pegasus. Dec. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9781605984162. $25.95; eISBN 9781453271490. F
In the days before the epic Battle of Hastings in 1066, chaos reigned in Saxon England. But the Norman victory is only the beginning of the fighting. Led by Hereward, a half-mythical British hero, the Saxons continue the war against the invaders.
Verdict This is a well-written action tale that sometimes compares favorably with the works of Bernard Cornwell. However, the tale is unrelentingly dark and grim and graphically brutal and bloody. Also, Hereward comes across as an over-the-top action hero who improbably survives major wounds, multiple enemies, snarling wolf packs, and nasty snowy English weather, sometimes while unarmed and nearly nude. Purchase for demand. Wilde is the pseudonym of Mark Chadbourn, a British fantasy author.—Robert Conroy, Warren, MI

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"