An involving fantasy that offers intriguing worldbuilding, compelling characters, and dramatic action.

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A young warrior and a so-called monster join forces against impending catastrophe in this fantasy sequel.

The town of Herta stands at the base of Ácatar, a tall mountain that was once home to a kingdom of black-winged creatures. Centuries ago, they used black magic to conjure a fiery conflagration of molten rock from Ácatar, which destroyed their mountain, the whole continent, and themselves. Legend has it that only one monster survived; it sleeps in the ruined castle at the mountain’s summit guarded by a score of stone soldiers and will someday awaken to again wreak destruction. The Academy in Herta provides grueling training in combat and magic, preparing young fighters to join the Order of the Guardians, which patrols the summit for the day of awakening. Like other new cadets, Keith Naceg dreams of a chance to kill the monster and win glory—and now is the time. Atop Ácatar, the earth trembles and stone warriors are coming to life. But the one they call a monster is Alliezih; she’s been hibernating in her chrysalis for centuries and at last is emerging only to discover that her family, her people, and her kingdom are dead and ruined. Confused, weak, and not yet able to use her wings, she’s attacked by Keith and injured, but he’s overwhelmed by Alliezih’s beauty and hesitates, allowing her to flee. Escaping imprisonment for treason, Keith is even more determined to kill the monster. Alliezih’s equally determined to slay him, but when Keith finds her—she and a little girl have escaped from slavers—they put aside their mutual animosity to face impending volcanic disaster as a hellish portal opens on Mount Ácatar. To avoid destruction, they must discover the truth behind legends and convince the Hertans to trust Alliezih, work together, and defeat the threat.

In her second volume of the Legends of the Blue Forest series, G. tells a well-constructed story in which two points of view at first seem diametrically opposed but then converge in a way that’s essential to the excitingly tense resolution. Both Keith and Alliezih must overcome considerable obstacles in becoming allies. As a soldier, he’s accustomed to following orders but must nevertheless doubt everything he’s been taught to believe. She wakes to find her entire world destroyed and Keith trying to murder her, yet she must trust him. Both show admirable courage, selflessness, and quick resilience. Apart from the quest and romance themes, the novel also delivers a mystery that’s centered on the surprising truth behind the legend of Ácatar. Moreover, magical abilities are well calculated, with appropriate limitations but also characteristics that tie directly to the denouement. Alliezih’s early suffering is somewhat melodramatic, but the tale soon recovers its equilibrium. G.’s book was originally in Spanish. The translation by Soni, in his debut, is usually natural and flowing, although a group of male and female cadets is confusingly referred to as boys.

An involving fantasy that offers intriguing worldbuilding, compelling characters, and dramatic action.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2020


Page Count: 142

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021


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


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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