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LIORNABELLA by A.E. Outerbridge


From the Viridian Chronicles series, volume 1

by A.E. Outerbridge

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-77370-119-6
Publisher: Self

In this YA fantasy, a hero discovers her prestigious new school is connected to the mysterious dissolution of her nation’s royal family.

It is 1879 in the land of Liornabella. Seventeen-year-old Elle O’Sullivan from the town of Seraphina has been accepted to Eidolon University. She leaves behind her best friend, Martine, and rides the train before getting picked up by the school’s driver, Wiggins. At school, Elle and her roommate, Naomi Delphin, are sorted into the Sperrin Quintile, one of five houses that compete in games throughout the year. Though Elle is ginger-haired, unlike most of her country’s citizens, she shares with them a dedication to sports. During her morning runs, she gradually befriends the handsome Elan Grenfield, who moves in the same clique as haughty Ashana Lytle. While training their horses one day, Elle and Elan are stalked by a wolf. Luckily, a large “birdlike” creature chases it away. Other strange happenings plague Elle, including nightly whispers in the Great Hall and ghostly help after she nearly drowns during a swimming race. Events also start leading Elle “down a path” of research into Liornabella’s odd royal family, last led by King Barabus III, that dissolved in the late 17th century. Most intriguing is Princess Sinead, who would have been the nation’s first queen had she not disappeared. Outerbridge starts a YA fantasy series for older readers ready to enter an engaging, more grounded Harry Potter universe that’s nevertheless filled with magical artifacts and adults who aren’t what they seem. Studying is one of Elle’s most valuable skills; the appealing protagonist explores the memoir of Silas Hammond, Barabus’ servant, for clues about the royals’ vanishing. Liornabella is a curious realm, mimicking the 19th century superficially but being modern in terms of democratic governance and teen slang; the phrases kicking ass and holy crap are slightly jarring. Vibrant connections among other lands, such as Wisterian and Morosa, are skillfully drawn, creating fan thirst for deeper worldbuilding in future volumes. At the end of the deliberately paced tale, the author delivers a big, disturbing revelation. The hero’s potential for adventure expands yet striking mysteries remain.

While the magic builds slowly, this fantasy series opener possesses a grand allure.