An interplanetary fantasy adventure that’s riveting even when it meanders.

An Elf-hybrid’s investigation into suspicious activity lands her in a variety of dangers in Parker’s fantasy series opener.

Lady Alexin Dumwalt, the Keeper of the Keys, oversees a tribute in gold offered every 4,000 years. It goes to the powerful Mentors, who have allowedthe Elves to stay in their world of Eledon after they were forced to leave Earth.But now the Mentors want their tribute, which they’ve taken to calling the Epsilon Account, 244 years early. Unsurprisingly, the Elves don’t have the full amount, and Alex, an eclectic mix of Water Elf, Titan, and mortal, looks closely at the Mentors’ atypical behavior. Her investigation takes some unexpected turns, from a sudden death to Alex’s trip to Oltria, another Elf-populated planet. She runs into assorted troubles, including enemies holding her captive, trying to kill her, or assaulting her. The military-trained Water Elf can easily take down foes (“I panted hard, catching my breath as I surveyed the damage. All four men were down on the floor, unconscious. Did I do too much?”), but stopping the sinister plan involving the Elves’ gold will take considerably greater effort. Parker’s hero is simply outstanding. Alex begins this first installment of the author’s fantasy series in the mortal world, where she’s been exiled, working as a fashion model. She comes with a dense backstory, which Parker delivers concisely. While the story boasts a terrific setup, the investigation gets a bit lost in the shuffle of Alex’s (mis)adventures; she befriends another potential Keeper, stumbles into romance, and undergoes shuttle-pilot training in sequences that have little or nothing to do with the titular account. Still, it’s a delight to watch the Elfin hero overcome precarious circumstances using her wiles and her combat skills. Even far away from Eledon and without ready access to her magical Keys or allies, the cheer-worthy protagonist triumphs time and time again.

An interplanetary fantasy adventure that’s riveting even when it meanders.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2023

ISBN: 979-8861689618

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Independently Published

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2023


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


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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