An engaging fantasy series opener that readies a capable hero to tackle whatever comes next.



This epic fantasy debut features a squire’s journey to knighthood during a crusade against monstrous forces.

In the kingdom of Lortharain, 17-year-old Godfrey squires under his older cousin and knight, Sir Fallard. Godfrey’s parents are Duke Ulric and Duchess Regana of Bastogne. One day, as Godfrey acknowledges that he’s ready to be tested for knighthood, he and his training contingent stop in the town of Harv for the night. A rash of disappearances has struck the town, and Bishop Clovis presents Godfrey with the mission of destroying a vampire. Godfrey succeeds in the brave act and looks forward to being knighted by his father at their home, Fuetoile Keep. But King Wilhelm arrives at the keep with suspicious haste so as to knight Godfrey himself. The young man sees an avaricious glint in the king’s eyes and remembers his father’s words: “Some monsters are easy to see....Other monsters look like men.” Meanwhile, orcs and Nordsmen have combined forces to the north, intending to take over Azgald, Duchess Regana’s homeland. Godfrey joins a crusade drawn from many kingdoms to stand against this enemy. As war looms, two duplicitous figures filled with ugly ambitions hatch a sinister plot. Alvir of Clan Black Dragon and the sorceress Nera plan to resurrect the dragon Vozzab in their mad quest to rule all. Howard’s series opener introduces a determined, gallant protagonist who wouldn’t be out of place at King Arthur’s Round Table. Godfrey is chaste, dreaming of a girl he’s destined to court rather than hounding just anyone who might walk past him. After being wounded in battle, he meets Madeline, the daughter of Duke Tancred, and their chemistry is potent. Later, Godfrey has a dreamlike encounter with his primary deity, the sun god Loxias. He wakes with a prophecy on his lips, saying, “The crusade is for naught if the dragon now is slain not.” Though the author works with familiar elements, his rich prose renders them vibrantly, as with his orcs with “orange molten gems set in deep pits for eyes.” While this volume offers a complete, satisfying adventure, a strong foundation invites further installments.

An engaging fantasy series opener that readies a capable hero to tackle whatever comes next.

Pub Date: July 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-08-798204-5

Page Count: 414

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

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


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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