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THE PENITENT

From the The Immortality Wars series , Vol. 2

Engaging characters star in this measured tale of spirituality.

A teenager confronts adversaries with her newfound divine power in this second installment of a fantasy trilogy.

Matthew Greatworth, a hermit living in the Western Isles, comes across an abandoned infant on a rural road. Seeing the child’s brutally murdered parents lying in a lane, he informally adopts her, names her Evangel, and brings her back to his forest home, The Refuge. When Evangel is still young, the hermit learns that God shows her things in her dreams. Apparent proof of this is her response when bandits abduct Matthew for the riches they believe he has. In saving her guardian, Evangel displays a “divine power,” which everyone, including the outlaws, sees as a miracle. Further miraculous events ensue after a friend at The Refuge disappears, and a search party can only hope to find him alive. Later, Matthew, Evangel, and some comrades visit a nearby priory, where they don’t exactly receive a warm welcome. Much more affable is a group of traveling knights who also stop by. Sadly, one of the priory’s sisters, evidently vexed by the knights’ kindness toward Matthew and Evangel, reacts in an unexpectedly ruthless manner. Carreiro’s sequel is deliberately paced. The author’s descriptive passages often linger on the environment, as with Evangel in a garden: “Birds flitted among the trees. A wide variety of hummingbirds zipped by her head and chased after one another in competition for nectar and dominance over the other.” There are instances of violence in the story, which has more than one scene of torture. But a sweeping theme of forgiveness shines brightly while the seemingly indestructible bond between Matthew and Evangel remains endearing. An extended dream/vision sequence at the end deftly ties this book to the preceding series installment and sets the stage for the trilogy’s conclusion.

Engaging characters star in this measured tale of spirituality. (maps, acknowledgements, character list, author bio)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-950339-27-3

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Stillwater River Publications

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2021

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FOURTH WING

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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TRESS OF THE EMERALD SEA

Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.

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A fantasy adventure with a sometimes-biting wit.

Tress is an ordinary girl with no thirst to see the world. Charlie is the son of the local duke, but he likes stories more than fencing. When the duke realizes the two teenagers are falling in love, he takes Charlie away to find a suitable wife—and returns with a different young man as his heir. Charlie, meanwhile, has been captured by the mysterious Sorceress who rules the Midnight Sea, which leaves Tress with no choice but to go rescue him. To do that, she’ll have to get off the barren island she’s forbidden to leave, cross the dangerous Verdant Sea, the even more dangerous Crimson Sea, and the totally deadly Midnight Sea, and somehow defeat the unbeatable Sorceress. The seas on Tress’ world are dangerous because they’re not made of water—they’re made of colorful spores that pour down from the world’s 12 stationary moons. Verdant spores explode into fast-growing vines if they get wet, which means inhaling them can be deadly. Crimson and midnight spores are worse. Ships protected by spore-killing silver sail these seas, and it’s Tress’ quest to find a ship and somehow persuade its crew to carry her to a place no ships want to go, to rescue a person nobody cares about but her. Luckily, Tress is kindhearted, resourceful, and curious—which also makes her an appealing heroine. Along her journey, Tress encounters a talking rat, a crew of reluctant pirates, and plenty of danger. Her story is narrated by an unusual cabin boy with a sharp wit. (About one duke, he says, “He’d apparently been quite heroic during those wars; you could tell because a great number of his troops had died, while he lived.”) The overall effect is not unlike The Princess Bride, which Sanderson cites as an inspiration.

Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9781250899651

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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