A convoluted but entertaining sword-and-sorcery romance.


An ancient god’s resurrection causes turmoil in Asgard and on Earth in this fantasy.

Following up on The Ebony Queen (2020), this third installment of Lane’s series charts another imbroglio started by the witch Cynara, queen of Velez. She has unwittingly released the bloody essence of the Asgardian god Anastacio from an eons-old crystal orb while imprisoning the consciousness of Odin, king of the gods, in the same globe. Unfortunately for Cynara, stealing Odin’s divine knowledge leaves her a kind of prisoner, too, as she is left conscious but paralyzed at Camden castle. That leaves an opening for Lady Regana, the queen whom Cynara ousted, to try to kill her—unsuccessfully, since Cynara can’t swallow the poison her foe sticks in her mouth. With Cynara laid up, a succession crisis brings to the fore Keldan Ashburn, Regana’s secret son, who shows the privy council that “a royal emblem is branded between” his “ass cheeks” that establishes his right to the throne. But then Anastacio’s blood infuses the body of Velez’s former King Rickard, Keldan’s father and Cynara’s husband (and Regana’s ex), who is believed dead but is actually yet another conscious paralytic, mummified alive by Cynara in a statue. Anastacio takes over Rickard’s decaying body, rules competently over an astonished Velez, and spends much time bickering with a revived Cynara over all the cruel mischief she has wrought. But with Cynara converted by Odin’s knowledge from hellacious bitch to benign humanitarian, the true villain emerges: Daemonis, a fallen archangel whose duel with Anastacio over the goddess Freya started the orb business. A coalition of Valhallans, witches, and toxic geckos rallies to take him on. Lane’s labyrinthine yarn feels overstuffed with subplots; the characters are well drawn and energetic, but the novel lacks the space to do them all justice. Her writing features atmospheric prose, crude humor, and effective, ghoulish set pieces, including the disembowelment of a sniveling priest by a giant goshawk. There’s a delicious Game of Thrones vibe in scenes of royal intrigue. (“There’s doubt on both sides; no proof for Keldan, no proof for Rudrik. However, one man is moldable and the other is not.”) Lane’s imaginative worldbuilding, tart dialogue, and dramatic reanimations and showdowns are enough to keep readers forging ahead through the tangle of narrative strands.

A convoluted but entertaining sword-and-sorcery romance.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1777069964

Page Count: 462

Publisher: Shelley Kassian

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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Prepare yourself for the long haul. This is expansive, emotionally complex, and bound to suck you in.


From the Roots of Chaos series , Vol. 2

Magic, dragons, and prophecy are welcome threads in a fantasy that extols the power of motherhood, friendship, and self-love to change the world.

This prequel to Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree (2019) has a similar scope to that 800-page fantasy, but dragon lore is less important here than the stories of people and events that become catalysts for The Priory's tale. Each chapter is grounded by a cardinal direction, lest you lose your bearings, with the four corners of the world home to central characters whom readers will get to know intimately. In the West lives Glorian, heir to the queendom of Inys. Her rule is based on the sacred Berethnet bloodline, whose power originates from the knight Galian Berethnet's banishing of the Nameless One, a giant fire-breathing wyrm birthed from the world’s core. In the East, Dumai lives on a mountain peak and trains as a godsinger, someone who harbors a human connection to the dragons the East worship as gods. In the South, Tunuva is a warrior of the Priory, a sisterhood that worships the Mother who is seen as the true banisher of the Nameless One. Their beliefs are so different and their societies so distanced that they don't know of the others' existence. And yet, when the balance of nature starts to waver, bringing whispers of new fire-breathing threats like the Nameless One, these women find themselves united by a common cause to save their people and seek truth about the higher powers at war with one another. This story is epic in scope, but its density is the sort that pulls you in. The biggest pull comes from the humanity displayed by the central characters, whose hearts ache for their children and their futures in a world fraught with turmoil. The fire-breathers bring more than destruction in their wake; they also bring a plaguelike sickness that will elicit sharp parallels to the Covid-19 pandemic. The very real struggles these characters face, whether they ride dragons or bear the suffocating rules of monarchy, make this a consuming read. While some fantasy tropes feel like they've only been added to the story's surface, the pages keep turning because of the heart-wrenching reasons that characters are driven to action. The heroes shine in their uniqueness, with diverse family dynamics interwoven throughout and representation ranging from queer lords and warriors to genderfluid alchemists. This prequel stands on its own, but a word of warning to people who have read The Priory: You'll want to reread it in order to benefit from the deeper knowledge of what came before.

Prepare yourself for the long haul. This is expansive, emotionally complex, and bound to suck you in.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-63557-792-1

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

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Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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