For the sake of humanity, join in Bitterwood’s revolt.

BITTERWOOD

An inventive fantasy tale inhabited by a cast of satisfyingly complex characters.

The story takes place in a world in which humanity has given way to a race of dragons who now rule the land. Humans survive, but serve as the dragons’ slaves, a proletarian serf class upon whom the dragons rely for food and wealth. The dragons are led by the fierce but aging Albekizan, one of the greatest of all dragon kings. Tradition requires that the king’s sons fight each other for the paradoxical honor of being banished from the kingdom, the thought being that the exiled son will one day return to overthrow his father and establish an even stronger rule. During one of these contests, heir apparent Bodiel is killed by Bitterwood, a specter-like human dragon-killer who has stalked and slain dragons for 20 years, ever since his family was killed by the beasts. In his rage, Albekizan demands that all humans be killed as punishment for Bitterwood’s crime. Bitterwood, whose vengeful lust for dragon-killing has begun to subside, must rally his fellow humans–and any enlightened dragons he can find–to prevent the mass slaughter from eradicating the race. The titular character is a fascinatingly subtle fictional creation, driven sometimes by passion, other times by caprice, and often just as unsavory as he is attractive. Maxey’s fantasy world is well rendered and limber enough to serve as a metaphor for our own, and the author effectively, if sometimes heavy-handedly, weaves into the narrative social commentary on topics as varied as right rule, religious zealotry and genocide.

For the sake of humanity, join in Bitterwood’s revolt.

Pub Date: June 26, 2007

ISBN: 1-84416-487-X

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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