A serviceable, if simple, high-fantasy tale for teens.



Agapoff continues his dragon saga in this second YA fantasy novel in a series.

Fifteen-year-old Dagan is the prince of Authia, but when his father, the king, is betrayed by an ally, the boy is unable to replace him on the throne. Instead, he’s forced to take his grandfather’s sword and flee into the Highlands to avoid being killed by his father’s enemy, Praetor Marius. The young prince is almost eaten by wolves in the Highland pass, but luckily he’s rescued by the 100-year-old dragon Aurifer. Dagan is taken to the dragon’s valley for safekeeping, but there, he’s involved in the accidental injury of Corylus, one of the dragon younglings. Dagan must do everything he can to heal the creature, so he sets out on a quest to the healing spring of Apenninus, at a place that the dragons refer to as “the Golden Land.” His journey to the spring will not be an easy one, however; to reach it, he’ll have to travel through the Twelve Kingdoms ruled by the same Praetor Marius that invaded his homeland. As Dagan and his new dragon friends make their way across the continent, the young prince soon learns that he can’t escape the tide of history. Agapoff’s prose is plainspoken and dramatic in the usual manner of high fantasy: “Aurifer spread out his golden wings and allowed the warm air to push him higher into the sky. The magical ice covering the lake neither melted nor released heat, but over the southern shores, the thawing of the snows created abundant thermals to rest his tired wings.” The author does not delve too deeply into the emotional lives of his characters, which makes it difficult to distinguish between a few of them—particularly as the cast swells with holdovers from the previous book; Dagan, in particular, feels like a bit of a cipher. The novel should satisfy those readers who love all things dragon. However, fans of more intricate fantasy sagas may find this offering to be a bit lightweight.

A serviceable, if simple, high-fantasy tale for teens.

Pub Date: May 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-977225-42-9

Page Count: 570

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2020

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A second volume that sets the scene for more to come.


From the Defy the Night series , Vol. 2

As the Moonflower supply in Kandala dwindles, a ship arrives with a trade opportunity in this follow-up to Defy the Night (2021).

Moonflowers are critical for an elixir that cures the fever sickness. Prior to his assassination, King Lucas of Kandala sent a spy to neighboring Ostriary, whose connection with Kandala had been severed. Now Capt. Rian Blakemore arrives in Kandala claiming to be the spy’s son, offering Moonflowers in exchange for steel, and inviting a delegation to meet with the Ostrian king. Tessa Cade, outlaw-turned–royal apothecary, is eager to go. Since the invasion of the Royal Sector, Kandala’s King Harristan has attempted to negotiate better distribution of Moonflower petals to the poorer districts, but tension among the rebels, consuls, and royals has stalled progress. An alternate supply of Moonflowers would buy time for Tessa to find another cure. Her hope is countered by the cynicism of the King’s Justice, Prince Corrick. Nevertheless, he boards Blakemore’s ship along with Tessa and rebel leader Lochlan Cresswell. As Tessa and Corrick try to discern hidden motives and a possible trap, they reexamine their relationship, which gets tested by the mysterious captain. Chapters told in alternating perspectives draw out the plot at a measured pace, ending with a series of shocking revelations. The structure results in introspective accounts following different concurrent events, slowing the story’s forward momentum. Characters have varying skin tones.

A second volume that sets the scene for more to come. (map, cast of characters) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5476-1007-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.


From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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