A well-realized and lively caper.

A GOOD RUNNING AWAY

From the Misplaced Mercenaries series , Vol. 1

Pettway’s debut fantasy novel sees an odd couple of mercenaries flee their bloodthirsty fellows and take refuge by posing as royalty.

Keane and Sarah are members of Wallace’s Company, a band of mercenaries who engage in peripatetic looting, pillaging, and extortion throughout the Thirteen Kingdoms. Keane is a wisecracking rogue, and Sarah is the most formidable swordfighter among her 400-odd colleagues. The two have been inseparable since childhood. When Keane earns the ire of Harden Grayspring, the mercenaries’ lord marshal, he and Sarah take to their heels, pausing only to purloin the company’s wage box. Harden, a ruthless and unforgiving man, pursues them and brings the rest of the company along. While running for their lives, Keane and Sarah stumble upon an opportunity to do something foolhardy but, to Keane, irresistible—to take the place of the recently deceased Prince Despin Swifthart of Tyrrane, who had been traveling to the city of Treaty Hill and Forest Castle to meet and marry Princess Rance when he died. Unfortunately for Keane and Sarah, the deception leads them to be trapped in the royal household and held there by an unseen power. Also, King Rance despises Keane, as does the princess. Can he and Sarah survive to make their escape before their true identities are exposed—and before Harden brings the might of Wallace’s Company down upon the city? Pettway tells the tale in the third person from multiple viewpoints, devoting time not only to Keane and Sarah, but also to Harden and his right-hand man, Eli Whister. The antagonists are uncommonly complex characters, as a result, adding further realism to the convincing setting. The author sketches and hints at elaborate multiracial and multicultural societies without subjecting the reader to boundless exposition. The story moves at a good pace, helped along by characters’ banter, which can be a tad too glib at times but employs inventive (and vulgar) curses and insults. Readers’ enjoyment of this book will depend heavily on their appreciation of Keane as a lovable scoundrel, but it will likely appeal to connoisseurs of lighthearted fantasy.

A well-realized and lively caper.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-951445-02-7

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Cursed Dragon Ship Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.

FOR THE WOLF

Twin princesses—one fated to become a queen, the other a martyr—find themselves caught up in an unexpected battle of dark magic and ancient gods.

Four hundred years ago, a Valleydan princess facing a loveless betrothal sought refuge in the Wilderwood with her lover, the Wolf. The legendary Five Kings—including her father and her husband-to-be—pursued them only to be trapped in the Wilderwood. Now, according to legend, the only hope of restoring the Five Kings to power lies in the ritual sacrifice of every Second Daughter born to Valleyda's queen. There hasn't been a second daughter for 100 years—until now. On her 20th birthday, Redarys accepts her fate and walks into the Wilderwood to become the Wolf's next victim only to find that the stories she grew up on were lies. The handsome man who lives in a crumbling castle deep in the forest is not the original Wolf but his son, and he wants nothing to do with Red or her sacrifice. Afraid of her wild magic abilities and the danger they pose to her sister, Neverah, Red refuses to leave the Wilderwood. Instead, she clings to the new Wolf, Eammon, who will do whatever it takes to protect her from the grisly fate of the other Second Daughters. Meanwhile, in the Valleydan capital, Neve's desperation to bring her sister home sets her on a path that may spell disaster for Red, Eammon, and the Wilderwood itself. Whitten weaves a captivating tale in this debut, in which even secondary characters come to feel like old friends. The novel seamlessly blends "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty and the Beast" into an un-put-down-able fairy tale that traces the boundaries of duty, love, and loss.

A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-59278-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A well-constructed prelude to what promises to be an interesting series.

THE ATLAS SIX

Dangerous intrigues and deadly secrets swirl around six ambitious young magicians competing for entry into a secret society.

In a world very much like our own, except that a certain percentage of humanity is born with magical powers, six extraordinarily gifted people in their 20s are invited to train for membership in the Alexandrian Society, which has carefully and somewhat surreptitiously preserved centuries of priceless knowledge since the (apparent) burning of the Library of Alexandria. At the end of one year, five of the six will be initiated into the Society, and the reader won’t be surprised to learn that the sixth person isn’t allowed to quietly return home. As the year advances, the candidates explore the limits of their unique powers and shift their alliances, facing threats and manipulations from both within and outside of their circle. For most of its length, the book appears to be a well-written but not especially revolutionary latecomer to the post–Harry Potter collection of novels featuring a darker and more cynical approach to magical education; these books include Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars, Marina and Sergey Dyachenko’s Vita Nostra, and Lev Grossman’s Magicians series. Blake also offers a significant dash of the older subgenre of students joining a mystical cult requiring a sacrifice, as in Elizabeth Hand’s Waking the Moon and Robert Silverberg’s The Book of Skulls. The character-building is intense and intriguing—such an interior deep dive is practically de rigueur for a story of this type, which depends on self-discovery—but the plot doesn’t seem to be going anywhere surprising. Then, the book's climax devastatingly reveals that Blake was holding her cards close to the vest all along, delicately hinting at a wider plot which only opens up fully—or almost fully—at the end, when it shoves the reader off a cliff to wait for the next book.

A well-constructed prelude to what promises to be an interesting series.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-85451-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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