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


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

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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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A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.


Twin princesses—one fated to become a queen, the other a martyr—find themselves caught up in an unexpected battle of dark magic and ancient gods.

Four hundred years ago, a Valleydan princess facing a loveless betrothal sought refuge in the Wilderwood with her lover, the Wolf. The legendary Five Kings—including her father and her husband-to-be—pursued them only to be trapped in the Wilderwood. Now, according to legend, the only hope of restoring the Five Kings to power lies in the ritual sacrifice of every Second Daughter born to Valleyda's queen. There hasn't been a second daughter for 100 years—until now. On her 20th birthday, Redarys accepts her fate and walks into the Wilderwood to become the Wolf's next victim only to find that the stories she grew up on were lies. The handsome man who lives in a crumbling castle deep in the forest is not the original Wolf but his son, and he wants nothing to do with Red or her sacrifice. Afraid of her wild magic abilities and the danger they pose to her sister, Neverah, Red refuses to leave the Wilderwood. Instead, she clings to the new Wolf, Eammon, who will do whatever it takes to protect her from the grisly fate of the other Second Daughters. Meanwhile, in the Valleydan capital, Neve's desperation to bring her sister home sets her on a path that may spell disaster for Red, Eammon, and the Wilderwood itself. Whitten weaves a captivating tale in this debut, in which even secondary characters come to feel like old friends. The novel seamlessly blends "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty and the Beast" into an un-put-down-able fairy tale that traces the boundaries of duty, love, and loss.

A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-59278-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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