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From the Nightshade Crown series , Vol. 1

A perfect blend of shadowy gods, forbidden romance, and political court drama.

A young woman who wields dark magic, a monk of death, and the crown prince find their fates are somehow entwined.

Lore works as a poison runner with her mothers, their city laced with the death magic known as Mortem after the demise of the Goddess now buried in the catacombs beneath their feet. But Lore is different from her mothers; she has a stronger connection to Mortem than anyone she knows—strong enough to raise the dead—and her powers cannot stay hidden forever. Eventually she attracts the attention of the Presque Mort, a group of monks whose brushes with death have left them able to channel Mortem, though none can match Lore’s abilities. After having Lore snatched up, the Priest Exalted, head of the Presque Mort and twin brother to the Sainted King, pairs Lore with the solemn Gabriel and instructs them to discover how and why whole villages are mysteriously dying—even if it means bringing one of the dead villagers back to life. And the two have another mission, a direct order from the King: They must infiltrate the Court of the Citadel and ingratiate themselves with the King’s son, the prince Bastian, who may be passing intelligence to their enemies. Lore trusts neither king nor priest but has no choice but to comply; she soon finds herself juggling the schemes of the Presque Mort, the King, Bastian, and more. Amid glittering gowns and late-night balls, Lore and Gabriel—and Bastian as well—grapple with their pasts and their beliefs as forces both human and divine gather around them. With a system of dark magic; instant chemistry and tension among Lore, Gabriel, and Bastian; and revelations that bring to light new questions, this is an intriguing beginning to a series that effortlessly balances character development with plot and atmosphere.

A perfect blend of shadowy gods, forbidden romance, and political court drama.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780316434997

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2023

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From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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