Not groundbreaking, but fans of the genre will thoroughly enjoy.

THE ECHOES OF FALLEN STARS

IMMORTAL CROWNS

A young man finds himself trapped between the forces of heaven and hell in Netto’s latest queer romantic fantasy novel, the first in a series.

Bellwound Throvar has just had his 18th birthday, or, as it is known in his village, his Blood-date. According to tradition, he is now a man, but Bellwound doubts some of the traditions and fables he grew up believing. “Stories change as they’re passed down,” he tells his mother regarding their religious belief that their deity, the Pale Lion, cast down a rebellious angel, the Dove. “It’s very convenient to believe that there is an opposition and an ultimate blameless creator. Think with me. Shadow only exists because an object blocks the light.” When he wakes up the morning after his Blood-date, however, he discovers that his parents—as well as the parents of his best friend (and secret crush), Arnon Helvug—have been kidnapped…or, if the blood stains are any indication, something much worse. Bellwound soon learns that he’s bound up in a prophecy connecting him to the very Dove whose existence he doubted. What’s more, beneath the floorboards of his own house is a secret religious document whose message could undo everything people have believed for thousands of years. With some help, Bellwound embarks on a quest to fulfill his part in the war to come while pursued by a deadly sect of body-hopping immortals known as the Fallen Stars. Netto’s prose is urgent and bold, particularly in its more carnal moments: “I tossed my satchel on the floor and fell on the bed. I pulled up my shirt. A throb between my legs. My fingertips trailed over my stomach, making their way past my belly button, following the soft trail of hair that disappeared underneath my pants.” The mythology is dense, but its basis in the traditional story of Lucifer (indeed, the Dove is named Lucifer) makes it easier for the reader to grasp. ­

Not groundbreaking, but fans of the genre will thoroughly enjoy.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-578-36809-2

Page Count: 268

Publisher: Nettoverse

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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