A fine high fantasy novel with a richly crafted world.

MORNNOVIN

From the Way of the Falling Star series , Vol. 1

This fantasy series starter by debut author Bethancourt is set in the aftermath of a conflict between humans and elves.

It’s been many years since the humans tried to wipe out all the elves on the world of Asrellion, and they thought they’d succeeded. However, a small fraction of them managed to survive and flourish, far away from where humans live. Loralíenasa Níelor Raia knows that she isn’t supposed to stray close to the human lands, but for some time, she’s wanted nothing more than to climb the tallest, most ancient tree in the woods. She never expected to meet a human in the middle of the forest—and especially not one who could speak her language. Instead of fleeing in fear, she stays to talk to the young man, and before long, she saves him from a bear attack. After passing out from her injuries, she awakens to find herself in the man’s home—which happens to be a castle. The man she saved was no ordinary human: He’s Naoise Raynesley, the second son of the King of Grenlec. Now, human royalty knows that some of her people survived, and soon the Crown Prince Dairinn shows up and delivers startling news: war is coming with a group called the Telrishti. In this first installment of Bethancourt’s series, The Way of the Falling Star, she presents characters from rich fantasy cultures—both human and elvish. Readers who enjoy detailed worldbuilding will quickly fall in love with this novel, as the author clearly put great effort into crafting the world of Asrellion. The prose is similarly polished and executed with great care; the even pacing will keep readers engaged, the various players are well developed, and the smooth dialogue feels genuine. The action scenes are also compelling, and readers will be rooting for Loralíenasa, Naoise, and their band of compatriots as the war for the world begins. They’ll also eagerly await the next plannedinstallment in the series.

A fine high fantasy novel with a richly crafted world.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73364-800-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dogwood House LLC

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2020

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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

THE SWALLOWED MAN

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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