Books by John Dickinson

THE FATAL CHILD by John Dickinson
FANTASY
Released: Sept. 8, 2009

The culmination of a superlative fantasy trilogy offers a heartbreaking vision of violence, failure, betrayal, sacrifice and redemption. Ambrose, the fugitive Prince Under the Sky, offers judgment to those who seek him out. When the beautiful princess Atti comes demanding vengeance, she sets in motion his quest to use dark magic to take power from the feckless, brutal king, hoping to defy a goddess's curse and bring peace to the blood-soaked land. Their tragedy, viewed through the eyes of a devoted maidservant and a world-weary counselor, presents all four as textured, complex and sympathetic, if not necessarily likable. The setting, steeped in its own distinctive history, geography and intricate interplay of politics and religion, is vividly present; the language—formal, poetic, rich in description and drenched with the melancholy weight of inevitable doom—shapes the whole. While the tale can be appreciated on its own merits, alert readers will find additional layers of subtle allusions and symbolism. By no means an easy read, it is immensely rewarding, for older teens or adults with the courage to make the journey. (Fantasy. YA)Read full book review >
THE WIDOW AND THE KING by John Dickinson
FANTASY
Released: June 14, 2005

In an intelligent, literate sequel to The Cup of the World (2004), Ambrose, the adolescent scion of Tarceny, must pay the price of his deceased father's foray into politics and sorcery: raised in exile, keeping constant watch over his demonic ancestor, the secret instigator of the civil strife despoiling the feudal kingdom. When this monster escapes, Ambrose flees the numerous forces, human and magical, seeking his death; he fetches up at the court of the Widow of Develin, the last bastion of learning in a benighted land, just as evil magic and human despair join to bring it to ruin. Now on the run with Sophia, the Widow's willful, passionate daughter, the pair must rally old allies and antagonists against the greater enemy—and their own, too-human failings. As the dark, twisty narrative alternates between brooding menace and brutal violence, leading to a painfully bittersweet climax, this weighty tome does not flinch from the hard questions—about faith, reason, authority, justice, forgiveness and (above all) choice—nor from ambiguous, even contradictory answers. Elegant, elliptical prose weaves these larger issues within the threads of a lushly detailed world of psychologically rich characters. Only the protagonists' ages mark this as a YA novel; its subtle depths demand careful attention that will reward any thoughtful devotee of speculative fiction. (Fantasy. YA)Read full book review >
THE CUP OF THE WORLD by John Dickinson
FANTASY
Released: Sept. 14, 2004

A medieval kingdom's power struggle mirrors one young woman's inner turmoil. Proud, beautiful Phaedra has rejected marriage for 17 years, unconsciously comparing her suitors to the literal man of her dreams. When he proves to be flesh and blood (albeit with powers beyond nature), she spurns a royal proposal to escape to his side. Her choice unwittingly plunges her country into civil war, and dark forces seeking release into the waking world will exact a terrible price. While fully realized and deeply human, Phaedra is an unlikable protagonist. She marches through most of her life like a clenched fist; bitter, angry, and willful; deliberately oblivious to the emotional nuances swirling about her. While readers will applaud her fierce independence and determination, they may identify less with her preoccupation with politics, status, and motherhood. The oblique writing style requires close re-reading to follow the complex intrigues and shifting alliances. Still, the lush, sensual descriptions, the carefully revealed backstory, and the taut atmosphere of looming menace all compel attention to the end. Dark and intelligent—for the sophisticated fantasy reader. (Fantasy. YA)Read full book review >