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 celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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So bespelling that the cliffhanger ending will feel like a painful curse.

ALL OF US VILLAINS

From the All of Us Villains series , Vol. 1

A bloody tournament will determine whose family controls the only high magick in the world.

Until someone spilled the city of Ilvernath’s dark secret in the anonymously authored book A Tradition of Tragedy, the world thought that the high magick was gone. Instead, seven families are locked into a curse tournament, providing a child every 20 years to fight for exclusive control over it. Rotating third-person narration follows monstrous favorite Alistair (of the sinister and most winningest Lowe family), paparazzi darling and talented spellmaker Isobel (of the Macaslan family, who are viewed as distasteful vultures), brains-and-brawn underdog Gavin (of the Grieve family, a lost cause that’s never produced a winner), and born-for-heroism Briony (of the respected Thorburn family). Prior to the tournament’s starting, exquisite worldbuilding shines as the characters navigate family stories and outsiders trying to influence the tournament and deal with the spellmakers and cursemakers who equip the champions. One cursemaker in particular puts ideas in the aspiring champions’ heads about whether the tournament’s curse can be changed—or broken. The competitors teeter wildly between heroism and villainy, especially once the tournament starts and their preconceived ideas of themselves and each other are challenged in lethal combat. Of the seven champions, Finley has dark skin and curly black hair, while the rest are pale; among background characters there’s ethnic diversity and casual queer inclusion.

So bespelling that the cliffhanger ending will feel like a painful curse. (Fantasy. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-78925-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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