An unmissable fantasy tale that marries gorgeous prose to a lavishly detailed plot.

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FEAST OF FATES

In this rousing epic-fantasy debut, two unlikely lovers forge a bond in the midst of a war between immortal kings.

The city of Eod, in the land of Geadhain, is home to Morigan Lostarot, the handmaiden of a reclusive sorcerer. While shopping for supplies one day, she stumbles into the shop of a blacksmith named Caenith. His bestial manner shocks and allures her—and it intrigues her even more when he reveals himself to be a werewolf. He then helps unlock her latent psychic talent, but the deluge of other peoples’ thoughts and memories threatens to cripple her, so she consults with her magik-wielding boss, Thackery Thule. Meanwhile, Magnus, the Everfair King, has become possessed by a dark, virulent force, and he suspects that his brother, Brutus, is responsible, so he marches with an army to his brother’s kingdom in search of answers. This leaves Queen Lila to rule Eod, and she begins her own investigation by summoning Thackery, who hasn’t told Morigan just how famous a sorcerer he is. At the same time, in the wretched land of Menos, the covetous Gloriatrix schemes against Magnus and Brutus in a bid to rule as a Black Queen. It would have been difficult for Brown to present a more sensual, or satisfying, debut. His motifs run the epic-fantasy gamut, from ancient forests pulsing with life to malevolent phenomena looming in the depths of space. His excellent prose, however, truly sets this book apart from the fantasy herd. Every page crackles with images full of vibrant emotion, such as the “miracle of Brutus’s horde, dusted in frost and as still as a portrait of war.” There’s also an erotic heft to the author’s writing during romantic moments; for example, Caenith tells Morigan that perhaps “the world worked slower for you, so that it might savor your beauty, as I am.” Elsewhere, readers experience Eod’s magical opulence, which contrasts fabulously with Menos’ repugnance. After a cataclysmic finale, the heroes rest up, possibly for a sequel.

An unmissable fantasy tale that marries gorgeous prose to a lavishly detailed plot.

Pub Date: July 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495907586

Page Count: 540

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

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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A magical mystery tour through the mythologies of all cultures, a unique and moving love story—and another winner for the...

AMERICAN GODS

An ex-convict is the wandering knight-errant who traverses the wasteland of Middle America, in this ambitious, gloriously funny, and oddly heartwarming latest from the popular fantasist (Stardust, 1999, etc.).

Released from prison after serving a three-year term, Shadow is immediately rocked by the news that his beloved wife Laura has been killed in an automobile accident. While en route to Indiana for her funeral, Shadow meets an eccentric businessman who calls himself Wednesday (a dead giveaway if you’re up to speed on your Norse mythology), and passively accepts the latter’s offer of an imprecisely defined job. The story skillfully glides onto and off the plane of reality, as a series of mysterious encounters suggest to Shadow that he may not be in Indiana anymore—or indeed anywhere on Earth he recognizes. In dreams, he’s visited by a grotesque figure with the head of a buffalo and the voice of a prophet—as well as by Laura’s rather alarmingly corporeal ghost. Gaiman layers in a horde of other stories whose relationships to Shadow’s adventures are only gradually made clear, while putting his sturdy protagonist through a succession of tests that echo those of Arthurian hero Sir Gawain bound by honor to surrender his life to the malevolent Green Knight, Orpheus braving the terrors of Hades to find and rescue the woman he loves, and numerous other archetypal figures out of folklore and legend. Only an ogre would reveal much more about this big novel’s agreeably intricate plot. Suffice it to say that this is the book that answers the question: When people emigrate to America, what happens to the gods they leave behind?

A magical mystery tour through the mythologies of all cultures, a unique and moving love story—and another winner for the phenomenally gifted, consummately reader-friendly Gaiman.

Pub Date: June 19, 2001

ISBN: 0-380-97365-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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