Plodding pace and an unduly Byzantine plot, even by genre standards.

THE SINGER’S CROWN

Eunuch prince reclaims his family’s usurped throne in this fantasy debut.

Rhys, now called Kattanan, is the last of the Rinvien line. His three brothers and his mother, the Queen of Lochalyn, were murdered by his uncle Thorgir, who seized the crown. Thorgir spared Rhys but ordered him castrated to avoid future succession disputes. Raised in a monastery dedicated to Goddess worship, Kattanan becomes a talented court singer, traded from realm to realm as human collateral. Separated at the court of an emir from his companion and mentor Jordan, Kattanan is brought to Bernholt, domain of corrupt King Gerrod, who has been struck down by a wizard-instigated illness. Kattanan becomes the beloved hairdresser and personal cantor of Gerrod’s daughter, Melisande. Her suitor, a wizard apprentice named Earl Orie, seeks to ingratiate himself at the Bernholt court, but Kattanan intuits that he has ulterior motives. When Melisande goes to Gamel’s Grove to marry Orie, Kattanan follows. There he befriends Fionvar, Orie’s older brother. Expelled by Orie, Kattanan is rescued by Jordan, who proceeds to Bernholt and enlists his nemesis, the Wizard of Nine Stars, to cure King Gerrod. But Gerrod, ensnared by Orie’s machinations, condemns his son Wolfram, who had been regent during his illness. Wolfram flees and goes to the aid of Kattanan, now recognized as the true heir by the Duchess Elyn, ruler of the Rinvien court in exile. Nasty squire Montgomery, an Orie cohort, tortures Jordan, taken prisoner by the usurpers. With wizardly help to deepen his voice, Kattanan rides to battle as King Rhys, deposing Thorgir. He is betrothed to Fionvar’s lover Brianna, who is pregnant and will help perpetuate the fiction of King Rhys’s manhood. Swashbuckling ill suits Kattanan, and Melisande, now pregnant by Orie, still misses her former singer. But what if his castration were just another wizard’s device?

Plodding pace and an unduly Byzantine plot, even by genre standards.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-078253-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Eos/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2005

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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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Fantasy fans will love this fast-paced adventure, with its complex magic system, thoughtful hero and bold heroine.

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC

From the Shades of Magic series , Vol. 1

A fast-paced fantasy adventure that takes readers into a series of interconnected worlds ruled by magic—or the lack of it.

Long ago, the doors between worlds were open, and anyone with magic could travel from one to the next. Now the doors are closed, and only a chosen few have the power to travel between Grey London, a world without magic, Red London, a world suffused with it, and White London, a world where magic is scarce, coveted and jealously guarded. As for Black London, the city consumed, no one would be so foolish as to risk a trip—not even Kell. Officially, he’s a royal messenger, carrying letters among the rulers of the three Londons. Unofficially, he’s a smuggler who collects artifacts from other worlds. It’s that habit that leads him to accept a dangerous relic, something that shouldn’t exist. And it’s when a wanted Grey London thief named Lila steals the artifact that the real trouble starts—for both of them. Schwab (Vicious, 2013, etc.) creates a memorable world—actually, three memorable worlds—and even more memorable characters. Lila in particular is a winningly unconventional heroine who, as she declares, would “rather die on an adventure than live standing still.” The brisk plot makes this a page-turner that confronts darkness but is never overwhelmed by it.

Fantasy fans will love this fast-paced adventure, with its complex magic system, thoughtful hero and bold heroine.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7645-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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