An expansive and engaging tale of royal revenge and duplicity.

A debut fantasy focuses on a clash between a prince and a lord after the murder of a monarch.

A young man named Layton is the prince of Aelan Sor and heir to the Rose Throne. Layton’s father, King Abner Van Drayah, has been killed, leaving his mother, the unpleasant but beautiful Queen Lanaisha Van Drayah, in charge. When Layton is assaulted on a diplomatic mission, the question becomes: Who would be bold and stupid enough to attack the prince’s caravan? Saurin Taylaar is the man wanted for the king’s murder. What’s more, it is believed that his son, Lord Brice Caddock, is involved in the trouble with Layton. After Brice is captured, he is sent to a dismal fate of working in the mines of the Black Mountains. All seems doomed for Brice until he escapes. But he is seized by an “amazingly beautiful,” redheaded bounty hunter named Kandal Parrish. The two will end up spending quite a lot of time together. Meanwhile, back at the Aelan Sor court, Layton needs to temporarily put aside avenging the king’s murder. The queen wants Layton to marry a princess named Tajanna from Kan’chin. If Layton fails to wed Tajanna, Lanaisha insists that she will have “no choice but to wage war.” Dunlap’s sweeping narrative initially moves at a steady clip. Scenes of torture will keep readers on edge. In addition, the conflict between the queen and Layton creates plenty of tension. Things slow down somewhat as the focus shifts to Kandal and Brice. The two are chatty, and not all of the talk is productive. Conversation points include lackluster topics such as how to correctly spell Kandal’s name and the size of large trees that Brice insists are “awesome.” What keeps the momentum going is how the engrossing story eventually swings back to Layton. Even as details emerge about a connection between Layton and Brice, it is unlikely their feud will be quelled easily. After all, Lanaisha is the one with power, and, as she establishes early in the book, she is not to be trifled with.

An expansive and engaging tale of royal revenge and duplicity.

Pub Date: June 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64957-098-7

Page Count: 706

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2022


Warm and wonderful.

A prequel to the popular cozy fantasy Legends & Lattes (2022).

Viv is a fighter. It’s not just what she does, it’s who she is. So when she gets wounded during a battle with a necromancer’s skeletal wights, and her crew dumps her in a small seaside town to recover while they continue on after the necromancer, she is not happy about it. But soon enough, against her will, she’s drawn into the life of the town. There’s Fern, the unsuccessful bookseller, who has a knack for recommending exactly the right book. And there’s Maylee, the baker, who not only makes the world’s best baked goods, she actually winks at Viv. Before Viv knows what’s happening, she’s helping Fern out here and there, she’s reading—she’s involved. Meanwhile, there’s a pesky young gnome asking for an introduction to her mercenary crew, and a mysterious man in gray who looks like trouble. But Viv is leaving when her crew comes back through town. No matter what. This prequel gives readers a glimpse of Viv as a young orc, still committed to the fighter’s life, just taking an enforced break in a charming town populated by compelling, richly drawn characters, and the slightest hint of danger in the wind. Despite the lurking necromancer, the vibes are decidedly warm and cozy, and the plot is just as much about saving the bookstore and building relationships as it is about protecting the town from the man in gray. As a prequel, it can stand alone, but will certainly satisfy fans as well.

Warm and wonderful.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781250886101

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


A wonderfully enjoyable series opener.

YA giant Clare makes her adult debut with a whirlwind epic fantasy featuring secret plots, ancient magic, and hidden identities.

The nobility of Castellane know Kel only as Prince Conor’s aristocratic cousin and closest confidant, but a select few know the truth: Kel is an orphan plucked from obscurity because he bears a passing resemblance to Conor and proved able to handle being trained as Conor’s “Sword Catcher.” A Sword Catcher has all the typical duties of a bodyguard, but Kel’s responsibilities also include wearing a magical amulet that makes people think he’s Conor, allowing him to take the prince’s place at public events when the palace head of security deems it too risky for the prince himself. But when Conor becomes old enough to consider marriage, Kel learns that it will take more than hidden daggers to protect his charge. On the other side of Castellane society is Lin, a young woman who is a member of the Ashkar, a small community that's forbidden from living outside their walled community. The Ashkar are the only people who can still use magic, and even though using or even learning about most kinds of magic is banned, they are still feared and discriminated against by the rest of the world. Lin has worked hard to be allowed to study medicine even though she's a woman, but when her medical talents aren’t enough to help heal her best friend, she wonders if the answer lies in the study of forbidden magic. The tangle of political disputes and shadowy plots that leads to Kel and Lin crossing paths is not only thick enough to make the several hundred pages fly by, it will leave readers eager for a series full of twists and turns. Clare expertly balances the needs of a satisfying plot with dropping tantalizing hints of what’s to come in future installments. Her worldbuilding is instantly immersive, and the many characters are all detailed and memorable, so swapping between storylines flows easily for the reader.

A wonderfully enjoyable series opener.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9780525619994

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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