Hiatt’s formula for success holds true in this latest fantasy installment, which features rich literary allusion, swift...


Another engaging fantasy adventure from Hiatt (A Parent’s Guide to Parent-Teacher Communication, 2014, etc.) about the teenage Taliesin “Tal” Weaver and his motley band, featuring supernatural beings, reincarnated leaders and a magical mom.

Ever since a spell made Tal aware of dozens of his past lives (in 2012’s Living with Your Past Selves), he’s had to deal with repeated threats to his life and safety. Still, even he’s surprised when, leaving soccer practice one day, he’s confronted by a classmate who’s in league with Ares, the Greek god of war. That’s just the start of Tal’s troubles: in short order, he tangles with a shape-shifter and learns new information about his mother’s psychic powers. Complicating things further, he finds out that he must face Morgan Le Fay in a trial by combat. Unexpected sabotage disrupts the trial, though, which culminates in Tal embarking on an epic quest to find the lyre of Orpheus. The journey will require the skills of all his allies, and will take him to Olympus, the underworld and beyond. He’ll also meet an enemy whom he vastly underestimated in the past. The fast-paced action and snappy witticisms that enlivened the previous books in Hiatt’s Spell Weaver series still shine here (“Great, now I get to make history as the first participant of a trial by combat who has to bring his mommy with him!” Tal says at one point). However, there are occasional instances of overwrought prose (“a voice that cut like a dagger chilled in the heart of a glacier”). The nearly nonstop battle scenes sacrifice the novel’s emotional complexity and poignancy, and moments of foreshadowing tends to be surprisingly heavy-handed. Still, there’s no denying the sheer reading pleasure of this series, and this book is no exception. Hiatt has mastered the art of creating innovative situations that conform to the rules of his invented worlds. The pace builds steadily to a coherent conclusion, which still leaves room for future Spell Weaver books.

Hiatt’s formula for success holds true in this latest fantasy installment, which features rich literary allusion, swift pacing, crisp dialogue and inventive plotting.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-1503214347

Page Count: 280

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2015

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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.


A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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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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