A run-of-the-mill story in a beautifully drawn fantasy world.

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The Last of the Firedrakes

BOOK 1: THE AVALONIA CHRONICLES

An orphan discovers her royal roots in the first book of Oomerbhoy’s debut YA fantasy series.

Aurora Darlington is a 16-year-old orphan living with an extended family that seems to despise her existence. If there were a closet under the stairs, she’d be living in it. Aurora’s life is turned upside down when she finds herself kidnapped and transported to the magical kingdom of Avalonia—an alternate world in which Aurora is a princess. She’s also a mage and one of the fae. Unfortunately for Aurora, her claim to the family throne and her incredible powers make her an attractive target. The evil Queen Morgana is hunting Aurora, hoping to extinguish the last of the Firedrake dynasty. Aurora finds safe haven with her birth family, makes new friends, and encounters a host of mythical creatures to help. She also attends a school for magic, where she begins to get a handle on her power. As she learns more and more about her family and kingdom, Princess Aurora becomes determined to defeat Morgana and claim her crown. The mysterious Black Wolf is an added bonus, a handsome and mysterious outlaw who repeatedly comes to Aurora’s aid. Oomerbhoy’s fairy tale has a familiar feel: a damsel in distress, an evil villain, a handsome prince, and an assorted cast of magical beings. Some of the narrative components echo the classics; the Academy of Magic at Evolon could be Hogwarts, while the Shadow Guards are reminiscent of Tolkien’s Ring Wraiths or Rowling’s Dementors. Aurora can be a tepid heroine, uncomplicated in her internal dialogue and often slow on the uptake (she may be the only one surprised by her love interest’s true identity). Yet Oomerbhoy admirably creates her world, and the descriptions of villages and feasts are the novel’s best parts. At the library of Evolon, “wisteria had climbed the walls of the front façade, which was huge and imposing, and two additional wings led out at right angles towards the sea.” Even discouraged readers will want to wander inside.

A run-of-the-mill story in a beautifully drawn fantasy world.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-940014-70-8

Page Count: 488

Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2015

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Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

MALICE

This YA SF novel features a teen who must halt a virus that will kill two-thirds of humanity.

In Silver Oak, Maryland, Alice Sherman is a high school junior enjoying lunch near her campus basketball court. With her is Archie, her brother, a senior and science prodigy who likes equations more than his fellow students. Alice has been Archie’s one true friend since their mother left six years ago. Alice is about to catch up with Lalana Bunyasarn, her best friend, when a sudden “streak of electricity zaps through” her head. The agony intensifies until a Voice enters Alice’s mind, asking her, “Do you want this pain to stop?” The Voice then instructs her to go up to Bandit Sakda, a classmate playing basketball, and say that she loves him. Bandit is a beautiful Thai boy who’s talented and arrogant. Strangely, the Voice calls her Malice and says not to fall for him because “it’ll only make what you have to do later harder.” Eventually, Alice learns that the Voice belongs to someone from 10 years in the future who needs help saving humanity. A virus will be created by a person Alice knows that will wipe out two-thirds of the world population. Following the Voice’s directions can save everyone—except the person Alice is ordered to kill. Dunn’s (Star-Crossed, 2018, etc.) latest YA adventure offers increasingly tantalizing twists that gleam in succession like nested matryoshka dolls. Alice will charm readers with her quirks, especially her devotion to Chris Hemsworth of Marvel’s Avengers films. Tension builds as characters in the large cast, including crushworthy Zeke Cain and the brilliant Cristela Ruiz, become potential targets for Alice’s mission. Details about Thai culture add a splendid dimension to the narrative; for example, Bandit is pronounced “bun-dit” and means “one who is wise.” While the notion of a high school killer may not sit well with some, the author doesn’t use the device lightly. Her book takes a strong anti-bullying stance, doing so through an entertaining narrative that doesn’t resort to preaching. The author’s heart and craftiness make a sequel welcome.

Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-412-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Familiar territory plumbed afresh; fantasy fans should be pleased.

A GIFT OF POISON

From the The Kingmakers' War series , Vol. 1

A girl who has been dismissed and distrusted for most of her life must prove herself in this quest novel.

Briand Varryda dresses like a boy and is the unwanted ward of her uncle. Denied education and often even food, she realizes that her only friends are her cousin Bran and, sometimes, the soldier Tibus. Briand can look after herself: She’s good with a knife and light on her feet. But this time, she’s in real trouble. Briand has cleaned out one soldier too many at the card game Dubbok. When Tibus saves her from vengeful pursuers, he has no choice but to then turn her over to Kael, steward of her uncle’s castle—who has a reputation for cruelty and who, with the help of Bran’s loathsome tutor, Nath, is conducting secret experiments involving young noblemen and poisonous snakes. Kael gives her one last chance. Briand tries to go straight; she attempts to do the right thing. But when she intervenes in one of Kael’s experiments, she gets more than she bargained for. By passing a test meant for Bran, Briand becomes a “dragonsayer,” with “the ability to speak to and sometimes control animals of magic, particularly dragons.” From despised guttersnipe, she has now risen to being the kingdom’s last hope against the usurper prince and his deadly Seekers—but that’s no reason for her companions to think any better of her. In this short novel, Ellison (With Tide and Tempest, 2014, etc.) takes fantasy tropes and makes them feel original. The same achievement can be seen in characterization. Briand and all the others are easily recognizable types but still seem unique. Briand, in particular, is somehow not the typical orphan who makes good. This is made possible by the author’s no-nonsense prose and pacing and some astute worldbuilding. The necessary background details (with the exception of some that find their way into speech) are foreshadowed rather than dumped. This allows Briand to forge her own path and for the story to grip and take hold. Although this is the first book in a series, the plot is largely self-contained. Readers will be left with closure but still wanting more.

Familiar territory plumbed afresh; fantasy fans should be pleased.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5028-7264-7

Page Count: 286

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2019

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