A smashing series opener for fans of literary fantasy.

A Woman Warrior Born

THE BOOK OF BANEA, VOLUME 1

Edlund’s fantasy stars a capable young warrior who seeks more knowledge about a ruinous prophecy she herself is destined to fulfill.

In the kingdom of Limtir lives 19-year-old Breea Banea, the youngest female applicant to the Library in 1,000 years. She’s an expert in woodland survival, hunting, and combat. Breea still has much to learn, however, including the potent magic of weaving and why a priest said that her birth signaled the destruction of Yash, the religious capital city of the distant realm of Yasharn. In the forest, Breea encounters the violent Lupazg, a being out of the Legend Time who can change from a man to a giant white wolf. Lupazg strikes at the Library, placing Breea’s friend and mentor, Ajalay, (and most of the Tomeguard soldiers) in mortal danger. During the chaos, a guard named SaKlu performs a coup at the Library that’s tied to the religious upheaval sweeping nearby lands. He rules in the name of Yash, proclaiming those who stand against him vile Dauthaz. Will Breea survive long enough to discover the truth about her role in the Yasharn prophecies? This first volume in author Edlund’s ambitious new series drops readers into a grandiose realm, filled with forest cats who speak the secret Breowic language and lovers who have “caught the moonstone” for each other. The prose is dense and lyrical, reminiscent of high-fantasy masterminds like M. John Harrison: “The spark hovering above her palm,” we read of Ajalay in battle, “shone like a star brought to ground.” Edlund’s cinematic action scenes feature magic that whips and writhes like a living thing (“Lupazg snarled, and frost rimed her clothing and hair”). Though many of the set pieces are standard fantasy fare—the sea battle and the bustling city—audiences will likely follow the complex Breea anywhere after Edlund’s astonishing cliffhanger.

A smashing series opener for fans of literary fantasy.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4937-2995-1

Page Count: 279

Publisher: Landstrider Press

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2015

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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