Readers who relish Modesitt's magical battles have waited through two volumes for them to materialize; they will find their...

THE MAGE-FIRE WAR

Third entry in a miniseries (Outcasts of Order, 2018, etc.) within the Recluce fantasy universe; this is the 21st novel overall. The struggle between white chaos magic and black order magic continues.

Beltur, a black mage with the extraordinary ability to blend both chaos and order, and his wife, Jessyla, a healer, have been driven yet again from their home by jealous rivals, unscrupulous rulers, and prejudiced townsfolk. Accompanying them is another refugee family, the black mage Lhadoraak, his nonmagical wife, Tulya, and their young daughter, Taelya, a budding white wizard Beltur is tutoring. They arrive in Montgren at the invitation of the ruling duchess, and they hope to settle in the town of Haven. The duchess's endowment of gold and troopers seemed generous enough, but Haven turns out to be lawless and half abandoned, bossed by thugs and agents of Massyngal, the malign, despotic duke of neighboring Hydlen who has long nursed ambitions of annexing the place. To set the town to rights and defy the armies and chaos wizards of Hydlen, Beltur will need all his considerable problem-solving skills and hard-won expertise as a battle mage. This entry pivots away from the two previous books, which explored complex philosophical and social issues, in favor of more direct action. Beltur, then, must figure out a way to defeat an opponent whose troops and wizards follow orders no matter what. And series fans, understanding that the order in which the books are written bears no relation to the saga's internal chronology, will appreciate the supreme irony that the stronghold known to the future as Fairhaven was founded by black mages.

Readers who relish Modesitt's magical battles have waited through two volumes for them to materialize; they will find their reward here.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20782-1

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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