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A soaringly good read.

A heist threatens to shake an empire in this stand-alone work of epic fantasy.

Seventeen years ago, a gifted dragonrider candidate, Anahrod Amnead, was falsely accused of stealing from a dragon’s hoard. Tossed 50,000 feet to the Deep below, Anahrod managed to survive and carve out a life—only to be kidnapped and convinced to join a plot to actually rob the hoard of that same dragon. Many additional twists, turns, and revelations unfold in this pointed, flaming riposte to the science fantasy series that set the standard for dragonrider novels from the 1980s forward, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. (An author’s note acknowledges Lyons’ debt to both McCaffrey and George R. R. Martin.) McCaffrey’s books and the many series they inspired posit an environment in which dragons—despite their vastly superior size, claws and teeth, ability to fly and breathe hazardous substances, and possession of magical or magic-seeming powers—will generally submit to humans’ superior intellectual and mental capabilities as part of a biologically imperative bonding relationship. This book is set in a world where dragons seem to be equally intelligent to and more psychically powerful than humans. They recognize their obvious advantage and don’t submit: They rule over their riders in particular and much of humanity in general. Bonding has some key physical benefits for them but it’s not an imperative; it’s a choice—at least, on the dragons’ part. And the ability to speak to all dragons, which is considered a boon on Pern, is nothing but a profound danger here, because at least one dragon views it as a threat. This novel grabs a bunch of now-classic fantasy tropes and gives them a good shake; meanwhile, the heist story sticks fairly close to its classic tropes—clever ruses, last-minute setbacks, inevitable betrayals, and so on—but injects enjoyable suspense. Finally, there’s a really sweet throuple romance and some lovely familial reconciliation.

A soaringly good read.

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781250342003

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2024

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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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