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A sprawling tale of love and magic with an engaging protagonist.

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In Gateley’s debut fantasy novel, the first of a planned trilogy, a modern-day Witch discovers a startling destiny that involves finding her true love.

Thirty-year-old Canadian Julia Harrison knows that she’s from a family of Witches, but she’s learned little about her own magic in her quiet existence on Vancouver Island. She does, however, have the power of Sight, which torments her with disturbing nightmares and visions of the past, present, and future. Some could be glimpses of her former lives—and these include people whom Dom O’Brien knows quite well. He’s a visiting Irish professor at the University of British Columbia, where Julia is finishing her final undergraduate semester, studying linguistics. It turns out that he’s been her lover in numerous past lifetimes; each time, they find each other, share a few months together, and then die—a cycle that’s playing out once again. As Julia slowly regains her past-life memories, Dom stays quiet about a relevant prophecy, even after the pair encounter friendly, magic-wielding Druids in Ireland. As it happens, the wicked, immortal sorcerer Cassius has been hunting Julia through the centuries. Julia’s hazy recollections and her “unreliable” magic skills make her rely on Dom and the Druids, but she aims to control her own destiny and join in the fight. Gateley’s book stirs up myriad questions as it provides details about the couple’s fated deaths, and it lets a handful of mysteries linger, presumably for sequels. For the most part, the story centers on Julia and Dom’s sublimely complex relationship, delving into such uncertainties as how their lives might unfold if they were able to be together, uninterrupted, for years. Gateley illuminates this fantasy novel with vibrant descriptions, as when the couple flies through Ireland’s countryside in a classic sports car, or how their mutual attraction is like an “electrical storm brewing.” The tale also has a strong feminist theme as Julia resists various male oppressors—from enemies trying to prevent Witches like her from using magic to allies sidelining her in their plan to defeat Cassius.

A sprawling tale of love and magic with an engaging protagonist.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-03-912657-2

Page Count: 500

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2022

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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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