Generations after Kingdom of Ash and Briars (2016), a new elicromancer threat jeopardizes Nissera.
Unlike most of the Calgoran royals and despite attending the elicromancer academy (founded after Bristal’s time, when people once again braved the Water to gain power), Valory shows no signs of magical talent. A tragedy results in Valory touching the Water without the approval of the bureaucratic governing body, the Conclave, and the subsequent ripples shake the foundations of her society—and leave her looking very guilty. Meanwhile, a secretive, mask-wearing sect called the Summoners are on the move with the goal of resurrecting the Lord of Elicromancers, a terror long forgotten by the time of the Elicrin War. Although returning evil overlords and the young hero destined to oppose are by no means rare in fantasy, West keeps things fresh through both the thematic justifications (the consequences of forgetting history, especially upholding traditions without understanding why) and complex characterization for good and evil characters alike in the tangled plots, cat-and-mouse games, deceptions, and betrayals. Tangential storylines reference “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid,” and, while the climax resolves the central crisis, signs point to future fairy-tale–inspired friction. While Valory and most characters are white, a couple of characters from faraway Erdem are described as having russet skin and are possibly coded Asian Indian.
Impressive intrigues and cleverly exploited character flaws make for an exciting read. (map, family tree) (Fantasy. 12-adult)