This riveting sequel starring a wizard should spark interest in the first volume.


From the The Woern Saga series , Vol. 2

In this second installment of an SF/fantasy series, a wizard stuck in the past fights to return to her time period and her beloved prince without altering the course of history.

In the world called Knownearth, Victoria of Ourtown became a wizard by drinking from the Waters of the Dead, which kill most who consume them. Her resultant power was so intense, Vic “almost single-handedly” ended “a decades-long war” between Latha and Relm—forcing the latter to surrender. Now, the nefarious former Lord of Relm, Lornk Korng, is imprisoned in Latha, where Vic’s foster mother, Queen Elekia, reigns. Distraught over the many she killed in her war-ending massacre, Vic leaves behind Latha and the man she loves, Prince Ashel. Later, pirates hold Ashel captive and plan on breaking Lornk out of prison. Coming to the prince’s rescue are Vic and Princess Bethniel, who both somehow disappear into the past. To return to their own time period, Vic needs a device from sorceress Meylnara, who leads the giant-bug Kragnashians. This will necessitate killing Meylnara, but Vic may also need to sacrifice something—or someone—to fulfill a prophecy of sorts and ensure that the future she already knows doesn’t change. In this gripping epic, Justice’s worldbuilding is extensive. For example, Elesendar is an abandoned spacecraft orbiting the planet, both a hint at the humans’ origin on Knownearth and a god most characters worship. Despite the dense story, there are key reminders of earlier series events, like Ashel’s torture at the hands of Lornk, and Vic as the assassin Vic the Blade. Similarly, the time-travel plot is easy to follow, save for the ending, which some may find perplexing. The author fills the pages with striking passages, including “shrieks wove a bloody tapestry” and the indelible Kragnashians “swinging their mandibles like scythes and sweeping aside the troopers like grain.”

This riveting sequel starring a wizard should spark interest in the first volume. (map, appendix, selected list of characters)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020


Page Count: 450

Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2020

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

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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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Combine Straub's usual warmth and insight with the fun of time travel and you have a winner.


A woman who's been drifting through life wakes up the morning after her 40th birthday to discover that she's just turned 16 again.

Alice Stern wouldn't say she's unhappy. She lives in a studio apartment in Brooklyn; has a job in the admissions office of the Upper West Side private school she attended as a kid; still hangs out with Sam, her childhood best friend; and has a great relationship with her father, Leonard, the famous author of a time-travel novel, Time Brothers. Alice's mother left her and Leonard when Alice was a kid, and father and daughter formed a tight, loving unit along with their freakishly long-lived cat, Ursula. But now Leonard is in a coma, and as she visits him in the hospital every day, Alice is forced to reckon with her life. After a drunken birthday evening with Sam, Alice returns to her childhood house on Pomander Walk, a one-block-long gated street running between two avenues on the UWS—but when she wakes up the next morning, she hears Leonard in the kitchen and finds herself heading off to SAT tutoring and preparing for her 16th birthday party that night. Straub's novel has echoes of Thornton Wilder's play Our Town: Every prosaic detail of her earlier life is almost unbearably poignant to Alice, and the chance to spend time with her father is priceless. As she moves through her day, she tries to figure out how to get back to her life as a 40-year-old and whether there's anything she can do in the past to improve her future—and save her father's life. As always, Straub creates characters who feel fully alive, exploring the subtleties of their thoughts, feelings, and relationships. It's hard to say more without giving away the delightful surprises of the book's second half, but be assured that Straub's time-travel shenanigans are up there with Kate Atkinson's Life After Life and the TV show Russian Doll.

Combine Straub's usual warmth and insight with the fun of time travel and you have a winner.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-525-53900-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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