A somewhat perplexing but engaging start to what’s sure to be an epic fantasy saga.

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A princess explores her mysterious past in this debut fantasy.

Princess Cruentus Fate of Macellarius is a mere 7 years old when her father sells her to a brothel. But her twin, Prince Abyssus, has a theory that the king isn’t even their father; indeed, Fate remembers only the last two years of her life. Fortunately, the brothel’s madam and the other girls are kind, and Fate joins them in the Rebellion against the Council, which governs the empire of Mu. As the brothel won’t auction off Fate until she’s 16, she tries winning the affections of Prince Caeles Hero of Nitor so he’ll bid on her. But a potential marriage to Hero comes with its own set of problems. Since he’s “Tainted,” he reputedly spreads miasma (spiritual blood) that negatively affects others. Meanwhile, Fate gradually learns about her past, mostly through Abyssus’ journal. Though they’re supposedly both Ancients with elemental capabilities, Abyssus suspects they may be something else entirely. But even more answers may lie in Fate’s bizarre, lucid dreams in which interactions with gods and folklore characters seemingly are connected to her lost memories. Yin and Yang fill their series opener with cryptic passages and events, such as someone Fate has just met saying, “You and your brother have always been dear to me.” This book doesn’t answer all of the questions, though the ending wonderfully sets the stage for the authors’ planned 60-volume series. Still, there’s laudable character development in this installment. Fate feels a genuine fondness for Abyssus and Hero and discovers a rival for the latter’s affections. Menaces also crop up throughout (for example, a “gargantuan” and intimidating royal guard) along with instances of violence. The authors’ lucid prose frequently evokes the senses, particularly during Fate’s surreal dreams: “The sound of breathing echoed and trailed, then silence returned….Above her, stars twinkled, and beneath her feet, a dark swirling vortex spun as it reached down into endless black.”

A somewhat perplexing but engaging start to what’s sure to be an epic fantasy saga. (dedication, map, acknowledgements, author bios)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62253-877-5

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Evolved Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2020


Warm and wonderful.

A prequel to the popular cozy fantasy Legends & Lattes (2022).

Viv is a fighter. It’s not just what she does, it’s who she is. So when she gets wounded during a battle with a necromancer’s skeletal wights, and her crew dumps her in a small seaside town to recover while they continue on after the necromancer, she is not happy about it. But soon enough, against her will, she’s drawn into the life of the town. There’s Fern, the unsuccessful bookseller, who has a knack for recommending exactly the right book. And there’s Maylee, the baker, who not only makes the world’s best baked goods, she actually winks at Viv. Before Viv knows what’s happening, she’s helping Fern out here and there, she’s reading—she’s involved. Meanwhile, there’s a pesky young gnome asking for an introduction to her mercenary crew, and a mysterious man in gray who looks like trouble. But Viv is leaving when her crew comes back through town. No matter what. This prequel gives readers a glimpse of Viv as a young orc, still committed to the fighter’s life, just taking an enforced break in a charming town populated by compelling, richly drawn characters, and the slightest hint of danger in the wind. Despite the lurking necromancer, the vibes are decidedly warm and cozy, and the plot is just as much about saving the bookstore and building relationships as it is about protecting the town from the man in gray. As a prequel, it can stand alone, but will certainly satisfy fans as well.

Warm and wonderful.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781250886101

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


A wonderfully enjoyable series opener.

YA giant Clare makes her adult debut with a whirlwind epic fantasy featuring secret plots, ancient magic, and hidden identities.

The nobility of Castellane know Kel only as Prince Conor’s aristocratic cousin and closest confidant, but a select few know the truth: Kel is an orphan plucked from obscurity because he bears a passing resemblance to Conor and proved able to handle being trained as Conor’s “Sword Catcher.” A Sword Catcher has all the typical duties of a bodyguard, but Kel’s responsibilities also include wearing a magical amulet that makes people think he’s Conor, allowing him to take the prince’s place at public events when the palace head of security deems it too risky for the prince himself. But when Conor becomes old enough to consider marriage, Kel learns that it will take more than hidden daggers to protect his charge. On the other side of Castellane society is Lin, a young woman who is a member of the Ashkar, a small community that's forbidden from living outside their walled community. The Ashkar are the only people who can still use magic, and even though using or even learning about most kinds of magic is banned, they are still feared and discriminated against by the rest of the world. Lin has worked hard to be allowed to study medicine even though she's a woman, but when her medical talents aren’t enough to help heal her best friend, she wonders if the answer lies in the study of forbidden magic. The tangle of political disputes and shadowy plots that leads to Kel and Lin crossing paths is not only thick enough to make the several hundred pages fly by, it will leave readers eager for a series full of twists and turns. Clare expertly balances the needs of a satisfying plot with dropping tantalizing hints of what’s to come in future installments. Her worldbuilding is instantly immersive, and the many characters are all detailed and memorable, so swapping between storylines flows easily for the reader.

A wonderfully enjoyable series opener.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9780525619994

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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