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An ambitious but slow-moving secret-society tale.

In Anonymous’ fantasy novel, new members of ancient, secret council strategize ways to make the world a better place—and wonder if they should even accept this responsibility at all.

During the First Civilization, which fell 12,000 years ago, a council of spiritual leaders called the Ohm ce Alefa was established to act as the guiding force of morality, form religions, and connect members of the global population. Through the centuries, descendants of the council members, known as the Auromzed, have continued the mission of the Ohm ce Alefa. When the current council members all choose to die, as is the custom, their children come together to prepare for their predestined ascensions. Each are assigned different duties, based on their ancestral lines, which are Indh, Abe, Edinak, Ren, Aryan, and Ehirman, and oversee innovation, knowledge, nature, trade, communication, and war, respectively. Gathering at the estate of Auromzed elder Akram Ehirman, whom they call “Grandfather,” the incoming members (Alexander, Ahana, Adisa, Aurelio, An-Sun, and Antigonus) discuss the council’s responsibilities, ponder the ethics of its existence, and try to think of ways to heal society. Conflicting perspectives disrupt the group’s harmony, and secrets are uncovered, allegiances are tested, and hidden forces pose an existential threat. Alexander was raised away from his fellow Auromzed and is a newcomer to the inner workings of the Ohm ce Alefa, so he effectively serves as the reader’s surrogate as he learns about each backstory, each cultural detail, and each advanced tech gadget. Set in the present day and featuring millennial central characters, this book can best be described as a blend of high fantasy and urban fantasy, and the novel’s world is built with rich detail. The author also presents readers with a well-developed ensemble cast, resulting in a story that’s thought-provoking throughout. However, the novel’s slow pace and multiple, drawn-out philosophical debates (“To say that decisions should come from morals and morals come from God would be to say that men without God have no morals and thus, should make no decisions”) may be off-putting to some.

An ambitious but slow-moving secret-society tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2024

ISBN: 9798989287932

Page Count: -

Publisher: Vestige Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2023

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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

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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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