A fun, amusing, and innovative fantasy.

JOURNEY TO FIRE'S KEEP

From the The Return to the Temple series , Vol. 1

In this debut fantasy, two friends seek revenge after a tragedy.

Stephen and his half-elven friend Angelo live in the safe and beautiful town of Springsboro. But they leave on a casual hunting trip and when they return, the entire town is burned to the ground. There are no survivors. While hunting, Stephen and Angelo had taken cover from a mysterious storm that blew in. This was no ordinary tempest; it was magic, the workings of Asmodeious, a master sorcerer. Asmodeious is the one who torched Springsboro. Stephen and Angelo want to punish the culprit who killed their friends and family, and the two set out on a quest to find the murderer. What they don’t know is that Asmodeious and his half-orc apprentice, Diablo, live on the edge of a volcano and that the sorcerer knows more about Stephen’s latent power than the hero himself. For a novel hinging on retribution, this is a surprisingly funny book. If naming the sinister sidekick Diablo wasn’t enough of a clue that the villains would be over the top, the sorcerer is unapologetically evil, shouting things like “No one gets killed by Asmodeious and lives!” While the backdrop isn’t as melodramatic as the villains, Owens’ world is a refreshing take on elves and orcs. The inventive realm blends modern living with traditional fantasy elements. Stephen answers the door in his boxers before donning his hunting armor. And when Diablo casts a cauldron spell, the pot displays “a menu with three options: security, alarm, and browse.” The humor seems effortless, and each discovery of how modernity fits into the conventional fantasy landscape is a delight. Still, the story has some tonal problems. Owens is at his best with two extremes: humor and a more solemn tone that’s standard for a traditional fantasy. He employs the latter in this vivid description of mountains: “Passes were designated early in the history of civilization, and indeed even a few cities sprang up amongst the jagged peaks, clinging to the very rock like a lichen, every bit as sensitive.” But these extremes affect how readers view the characters’ emotions. It’s hard to take Stephen’s and Angelo’s grief over Springsboro’s destruction seriously and yet their deep sorrow is the tale’s catalyst. This is the first installment of a series, so perhaps the tone will even out in the sequel.

A fun, amusing, and innovative fantasy.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-66413-988-6

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Xlibris US

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A fast-paced plot packed with secrets makes this an enjoyable read in a slightly old-fashioned high-fantasy style.

CHILD OF LIGHT

A girl on the run must uncover the truth about her past in order to secure the future.

Auris has just broken out of a Goblin prison. If recaptured, she faces certain, gruesome death. She doesn’t know why Humans are penned up like animals, and she doesn’t know how she herself ended up in the prison. She remembers having parents who loved her, but not who they were or where they lived. All she knows is that she has to keep moving to stay alive. When she’s rescued by a strange young man with greenish skin who turns out to be Fae, she’s quickly drawn to him and to the beauty of the Faerie city he shows her. She yearns to belong somewhere, and why not in this beautiful city in the trees? But in order to win a place with the Fae, she must recover her lost memories of her own past and prove she’s not a danger to the community. The mystery of Auris’ past drives the plot forward, and secrets are revealed and new questions uncovered at an appealingly steady pace. Formal language, and the characters’ tendency to constantly and explicitly state how they feel (“His hand is stroking my hair and I let him continue for a moment, comforted by the feeling it provides”), keeps the reader at arm’s length. But Auris’ quest to understand herself and be accepted into a community is a compelling one.

A fast-paced plot packed with secrets makes this an enjoyable read in a slightly old-fashioned high-fantasy style.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-35738-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more