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From the The History of Light series , Vol. 3

Not the saga’s strongest volume, but an entertaining bridge book to what will hopefully be epic concluding installments.

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The third installment of Hincker’s History of Light series takes its urban fantasy saga, featuring unstable former artist Asher Gale, in a much darker—and more apocalyptic—direction.

The story is set in Skysill Beach, an art colony on the Southern California coast that’s part tourist trap and part haven for “sighted” artists who use special ultraviolet paint to compel people to buy paintings. Gale is a possibly mentally ill alcoholic who, as the novel opens, has had visions of his own death on top of a terrifying “ghost mountain.” As tensions rise between the Five Families—the factions that have kept the strained peace among supernaturally gifted people for generations—a critical Conclave is scheduled in Skysill. Meanwhile, Gale is seeing more and more ghosts and is suddenly able to see the circumstances of people’s future deaths when he touches them. He must figure out his place in a complicated world—one in which he’s trying to avoid a 500-year-old power-hungry painter, among other enemies who seek to murder him, and stay away from his psychic girlfriend, Caroline, as he believes that almost certain death will ensue. In addition, he must figure out how to defeat an “eternal ghost.” Hincker’s novel suffers a bit from middle-book syndrome, as it lacks the excitement of an all-new storyline with fresh characters, as well as a satisfying conclusion. It also would have been improved by tighter editing. However, it still manages to deliver the goods, due to the storyline’s rapidly expanding scope, the relentless pacing, and the masterful use of multilayered tension. Gale’s premonitory visions, for instance, will give readers a grim feeling of looming disaster: “everything ends in three months.” However, it’s Gale’s self-deprecating humor that keeps the pages turning; in one high-intensity scene in which Gale is told he should embrace his heroic side and become a “seeker,” he responds: “I have bruises on my bruises…I seek vodka and acetaminophen.”

Not the saga’s strongest volume, but an entertaining bridge book to what will hopefully be epic concluding installments.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9798987630181

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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