Imaginative storytelling that delivers memorable characters, human and otherwise.

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A princess finds hidden strength and purpose in a kingdom filled with intrigue and treachery.

In this debut YA fantasy, Seeling delivers creative tweaks to familiar tropes of the genre, building a compelling world of magic, warfare, powerful evildoers, indelible dragons, loyal horses, and a princess and others tested by adversity. While the last section of this three-part epic occasionally loses momentum due primarily to overt proselytizing (Christian-based but not named as such), the author successfully navigates multiple interwoven plotlines. Love (romantic, platonic, and parental) is a recurring theme. So are betrayal, transformation, and self-discovery. Although Seeling’s villains are one-note (an evil queen, a sadistic emperor, a pair of tyrants), her heroes have strong emotional dimensions. Among them, timid book lover Princess Isladora must overcome fear, physical weakness, and a traitorous queen to save her father’s kingdom. Meluha Crocus, an ancient spirit held captive in Isladora’s magic ring, offers wisdom and guidance. Tobin, the commoner who comes into Isladora’s life, finds his nobility in words and deeds. Half dragon, half human Ariah and her wyvern (dragon) companion, Json, must escape their enslavement to fulfill a destiny they never imagined. Commander, the deposed leader of the wyverns, finds a new life underground and a nurturing imperative to aid tiny “Annites” as they face the threat of extinction from “Protectors.” (The despotic ruler of these potent Protectors, refusing to acknowledge the Annites’ existence as sentient beings, plunders their subterranean habitat for magic “frost.”) Unfortunately, Isladora begins sermonizing in earnest in Part 3 (“Meluha Crocus was the antithesis of religious, and she knew he was in pain because he wanted to believe. She prayed that God would show him the way”). Still, one of the surprises Seeling has in store for readers reveals how Meluha came to be entrapped in a ring. Other twists: the truth of Isladora’s parentage, how the wyverns bond with their half human companions, how the Annites thank Commander, and weapons and fight training. The most cinematic element in this far-reaching plot is the strange trajectory of Json and Ariah’s relationship.

Imaginative storytelling that delivers memorable characters, human and otherwise.

Pub Date: April 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64702-190-0

Page Count: 572

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2022


From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024


From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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