Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup: September 27-October 1 2021

Defy the Night

Book Cover
Brigid Kemmerer
Hardcover $18.99 (496pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

The first volume of a new fantasy series from bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer, Defy the Night pivots around two young adults who are determined to regain control of their destinies.

Kandala was already embroiled in infighting between its sectors. Now, it’s ravaged by a mysterious sickness, too. The only cure is the petals of Moonflowers, but their limited supply is hoarded by those in power.

After the assassination of his parents, King Harristan took up the throne, leaving his younger brother, Prince Corrick, in the role of being his brutal right hand. Corrick is responsible for crushing any whisper of rebellion, but he resents the cruelty of his position. He also knows that any sign of weakness could result in disaster—both for Kandala and his brother.

Tessa is an apothecary apprentice who, together with her best friend Wes, steals Moonflower petals to distribute them among those who need them most. To be caught means certain death—a fact Tessa knows all too well after the deaths of her parents. When Wes is captured, Tessa breaks into the palace in a half-cocked plan for revenge. She’s intercepted by dreaded Corrick. But with rumors that the Moonflower cure no longer works circulating around the kingdom, Corrick sees potential in an uneasy alliance with her. He invites Tessa into the royal fold, though the castle walls offer little protection against threats circling within.

Within this dark, brooding fantasy atmosphere, the multifaceted cast of characters sparkles. Tessa is compassionate but hot-headed; Corrick is loyal but conflicted; and even King Harristan avoids easy dismissal. Their shifting perspectives add further insight into their inner turmoil—and reveal the cautious beginnings of a romance.

A foreboding twist on the tale of Robin Hood, Defy the Night is a promising series debut.


The Beatryce Prophecy

Book Cover
Kate DiCamillo
Sophie Blackall, illustrator
Hardcover $15.99 (256pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Melding the language of prophecies with that of fairy tales and whispered dreams, Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamillo’s latest novel for young readers is both feminist and sweet.

The world knew Beatryce was coming before she arrived—in part, because a scribe predicted it to a tenuously positioned king; in part, because injustice cannot last forever. Still, her early years were bright and peaceful. Under careful tutelage, she learned to dream and story-weave—as well as to read and write, despite kingdom-wide edicts that girls and commoners do neither.

Beatryce’s calm was interrupted when the king tired of waiting for her prophesied arrival, and sent vicious soldiers searching for her instead. Her memories of the ultimate clash are hazy; all she knows is that she woke up not at home, but feverish in a monastery stable. She was without her family, but was protected by Answelica, a fearsome goat who loves her dearly. She is now forced to hide her talents, and her femininity, from those who wish her ill.

Jack Dory, a gentle boy with his own grudge against the king, intrudes on Beatryce’s period of hiding, forcing her on the road and toward hard revelations. Together, they encounter a runaway king who feeds on honeycomb and hosts bees in his beard; later, they reunite with an illuminator of manuscripts. Finally, this unimposing-looking crew heads to the castle, armed only with literacy, mermaid stories, and righteousness, but prepared to confront injustice together.

The Beatryce Prophecy is a gentle and wondrous tale that celebrates knowledge, kindness, and the boundless power of the imagination; its villains, despite their military might, are fast dispatched because they value no such qualities. Delicate illustrations and rich fairy tales run throughout the book, which stirs hope and joy at every turn.


The Escapement

Book Cover
Lavie Tidhar
Tachyon Publications
Softcover $16.95 (256pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

A father wrangles with his impending grief in a steampunk, Wild West alternate universe in Lavie Tidhar’s dazzling novel The Escapement.

There was once a boy so beloved that his father delighted in every memory they shared, from holding him when he was born, to trips to the circus, to nights spent reading fantastical tales together. But the boy got sick, and none of the dreams they’d dreamed together seemed capable of saving him. In his dismay, his father slipped into the Escapement, a feverish place where fantasies are twisted and wars between near gods rage. There, as the Stranger, he roams the land, looking for a path to the Mountains of Darkness, where it’s rumored that a flower grows that’s capable of reversing death.

The Escapement comes to seem dual parts an allegory for the evasive phantasms that people hold most dear—including boundless excitement; including immortality—and a mythology-attuned gamer’s paradise. Here, ants scurry through glass arms that are the remnants of impossible wars; the earth yawns open for foggy miners who seek mind-bending substances—the stuff the world is made of. People drink potions that allow them to skip sideways, between worlds; people drink potions that permit them to forget. Clowns roam the lands, simultaneously feared and misunderstood, as do figures from the tarot; circus performers, who filled more mundane roles before that, transform themselves into tyrants and thieves. Shadows twist and expand, and ghosts drift by like mists. Through this sometimes hellish landscape, the Stranger presses on, believing that he has no choice.

Those who enter the Escapement should strap themselves in for horrors and wonders galore. Filled with contorted fairy tales, myths, and familiar stories, Lavie Tidhar’s latest novel is both a fantastical diversion and a moving articulation of deep parental love.


Buddha Bowls

For Vegans, Vegetarians, and Pescatarians

Book Cover
Tanja Dusy
Grub Street
Softcover $26.95 (126pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Mindful, healthful eating is the essence of Buddha Bowls, a cookbook that explores popular, Asian-inspired meals that balance grains, toppings, and sauces to satisfy hungry bellies any time of the day.

Tanja Dusy’s recipes put vegetables and fruits at the fore. They emphasize healthy carbs and plant proteins. Most are either vegan or vegetarian, though there are plenty of suggested variations for omnivores. Whatever the Buddha Bowl combo: the emphasis is on nutrition and elegant presentation, shown in the book’s composed, bright photographs.

The cookbook tees off with a generous selection of nonstandard breakfast ideas, from comforting coconut rice slathered with mango compote to bowls packed with raw and cooked veggies adorned with sprouts, seeds, and crispy toppers, like dukkah and spicy granola.

Gliding from Easy Bowl recipes to more intricate, layered Super Bowls, the book globe-trots with its flavors: There’s Indian daal; an intriguing Bavarian Bowl of durum wheat, sauerkraut, and a cream cheese dip; a Korean Rice Bowl gussied up with swirls of seaweed omelet; and an Aladdin’s Wonderful Bowl brimming over with tabbouleh, tahini, and falafel.

Good knife work and a passable understanding of the art of the garnish are key to elevating a homemade Buddha Bowl from good to great, but otherwise there are no tricky kitchen skills to master. With only a smattering of unusual ingredients, like dried barberries and ground linseed, the book’s basic recipe pages introduce simple techniques like making quick vegetable pickles and simple cheeses like labneh and paneer; others focus on different cooking methods for staple ingredients, like chickpeas, kale, and tofu.

Buddha Bowls is an enthusiastic guide to whipping up quick, appealing meals that are perfect for busy weeknights. The recipes are great alternatives to take-out—and a whole lot easier on the eyes, gut, wallet, and planet.

RACHEL JAGARESKI (August 27, 2021)

Poe and Lars

Book Cover
Kashelle Gourley
Skylar Hogan, illustrator
little bee books
Hardcover $17.99 (40pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Like a sunset streaked across fresh snow, the colors of this story are as cozy as its message of taking care of others—and the planet. Decked in pink and yellow, Poe is a bright spot against the harshness of the Arctic, where she lives all alone. When Lars, a hungry polar bear, destroys her home, the two strike a deal: Poe will feed Lars if Lars rebuilds her home. A near miss with thin ice cements a friendship that can withstand even Arctic winds.


Barbara Hodge

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