A consistently surprising fantasy with strong characters who enhance the story.

THE BATTLE FOR ARISHA'S MOUNTAIN

From the Final Age Of Magic series

An alchemist and a warrior cross paths as dark forces assemble in this fantasy series opener.

Kaden Raylon is an alchemist in the kingdom of Avian. For years he’s suffered nightmares in which he dies and “an army of darkness covered the Kingdoms of Earth.” After studying in the city of Natreon, he returns home to Splendour for the Harvest Moon Festival. There, he dreads the future despite the love of his cheerful betrothed, Arika Angelika. A reptilian fortuneteller named Ceru even tells him that he has “no future” but also that he “must find a way to break” a mysterious seal to dispel darkness. Meanwhile, in the city of Drake, Tzak is the latest Dragoon, or warrior king. As night falls on a celebration in his honor, he retires to the forest with a female companion. In the morning, he finds Drake and its inhabitants burned to cinders. He encounters nobody living but Master Drogon, who explains that Tzak is cursed because his trials to become the Dragoon are incomplete. Tzak must spill the tainted blood of his last living half brother. Elsewhere, at the nesting grounds of Murder Grove, the birds of Avian prepare to answer a call to war by Arisha, “our Goddess of Love.” Allers begins this rousing epic fantasy series with magical multispecies chaos. Aside from powerful humans, Avian is home to talking birds, like Rey, the “conure parrot,” and Melody Tron, the angel-like Seraph. Early on, Arika says, “a person will always need others to give them purpose and identity,” pointing readers toward a key plot driver. Tzak is an intriguing, tragic figure, attempting to live on a pedestal and going badly astray in the process. The author’s battles are incredibly cinematic, as when “the ice dragon was flying with broken wings...spraying the trees with blood...it looked like a demon from another world.” Kaden undergoes a surprising change in the final third that gives him a new mission and proves that Allers is conceptually daring. A rewarding new dimension awaits readers in the sequel.

A consistently surprising fantasy with strong characters who enhance the story.

Pub Date: May 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5255-8287-5

Page Count: 276

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.

THE LAST GRADUATE

A teenage witch with a natural affinity for dark magic prepares to run a deadly graduation gauntlet in this sequel to Novik's Deadly Education (2020).

Galadriel "El" Higgins has finally reached her senior year at the Scholomance, putting her one step closer to her ultimate goal: get back home or die trying. After getting a sneak peek at the monster-packed hallway she must survive if she wants to graduate, the witchy teen returns to her classes and cliques with scarcely more insight than before. El knows enough to realize that her mana stores are a fraction of what they should be—come graduation, she will lack the magical juice she needs to kill monsters and make it out alive. Her fake-dating relationship with Orion proves to be a lucky "in," netting her a new string of tenuous alliances as well as access to a wellspring of free mana. But what could be a compelling adventure story falls apart here, as the novel relies on relentless bouts of infodumping to keep readers up to speed on where the Scholomance's monsters come from and what they can do to unsuspecting students. None of these paragraphs-long blasts of information recount the details of El's last excursion, however, and so readers who have forgotten Novik's previous novel, or who have never read it at all, will find no springboard ready to help them dive into the author's newest offering. Those who stumble upon this volume risk being unmoored, as the narrative picks up immediately following the events of its predecessor, without stopping to introduce anything, including the narrator. Ultimately, El's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of every monster in the school, combined with her continued refusal to enter into any genuine alliance with classmates, leaves readers to wonder what she could possibly have left to learn—or fear—in the Scholomance.

A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12886-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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