A well-developed character study that does justice to the fantasy genre.

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After years spent hiding her identity, a misanthropic princess-turned-thief must join the army in the fight to reclaim her rightful place as royalty in this fantasy sequel.

Ari Debouryne and Ely Novian are on the run. The 20-somethings have stolen the dragith stone and Ari has been forced to reveal her true identity as Princess Ariana, rightful heir to a usurped throne. She’s kept this fact guarded for many years, living a fierce, solitary life with only her symbiotic animal familiar (the bobcat Jagger, “whose purrs [rumble] joyfully into the air and the earth” when she pets him) for company. This novel’s events directly follow those of Barkley’s debut novel, A Memory of Light (2021) and no attempt is made to orient new readers. When Ari finds her underworld contact dying, she and Ely feel obliged to take the dragith stone to the Third Army gathering against the Malavi usurpers. The stone, it transpires, is a weapon that only Ely can wield. Ari may be able to keep him safe, but if she stays, she will be hailed as a princess—a title that comes with responsibilities. Can she reconcile the past and present and find a way forward? Barkley writes from Ari’s and Ely’s third-person perspectives and very occasionally from a lesser character’s, which affords readers a wider understanding of the main conflict. Ari is a remarkable protagonist—strong yet distant, and always tightly controlled. Her relationship with Ely is one of tolerance, unshakable camaraderie, burgeoning friendship, and perhaps something more. This uncertainty is representative of a story that eschews predictable genre conventions; for example, the magical artifact is a MacGuffin that the characters fight not to use, and the final battle plays out not in rousing overview but in breathless, confused flashes. Barkley’s prose is occasionally poetic, but the narrative itself is unromantic and the dialogue realistic. Events gain impetus from character development rather than tricks of plotting or prose, and the final resolution proves more bitter than sweet—an outcome that many fantasy fans will welcome.

A well-developed character study that does justice to the fantasy genre.

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63988-416-2

Page Count: 524

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022


Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023


A dark and gripping feminist tale.

A young woman faces her past to discover the truth about one of her nation’s heroes.

When Effy Sayre, the only female architecture student at her university in Llyr, wins the competition to design Hiraeth Manor for the estate of the late Emrys Myrddin, national literary figure and her favorite author, it is the perfect opportunity to leave behind a recent trauma. She arrives to find the cliffside estate is literally crumbling into the ocean, and she quickly realizes things may not be as they seem. Preston, an arrogant literature student, is also working at the estate, gathering materials for the university’s archives and questioning everything Effy knows about Myrddin. When Preston offers to include her name on his thesis—which may allow her to pursue the dream of studying literature that was frustrated by the university’s refusal to admit women literature students—Effy agrees to help him. He’s on a quest for answers about the source of Myrddin’s most famous work, Angharad, a romance about a cruel Fairy King who marries a mortal woman. Meanwhile, Myrddin’s son has secrets of his own. Preston and Effy start to suspect that Myrddin’s fairy tales may hold more truth than they realize. The Welsh-inspired setting is impressively atmospheric, and while some of the mythology ends up feeling extraneous, the worldbuilding is immersive and thoughtfully addresses misogyny and its effects on how history is written. Main characters are cued white.

A dark and gripping feminist tale. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023

ISBN: 9780063211506

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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