THE TETHERED MAGE

The first of a trilogy set in a land inspired by late-17th-century Venice—but with magic, gender equality, and same-sex marriage.

Bookish Lady Amalia Cornaro will one day have to step into her mother’s role as intelligencer and politically powerful member of the Council of Nine, rulers of the Serene Empire of Raverra. But her reluctant entree into politics comes more quickly than she would have expected or wished when she volunteers to bind herself to Zaira, a rogue warlock who in a fit of anger has unleashed balefire that could devastate the whole city. The only way to stop her is for Amalia to put a tether on the girl's wrist, which will link them for the rest of their lives. All the mage-marked in Raverra are conscripted into the Falcons, the empire’s cadre of magical soldiers, and each is linked to a Falconer, who can loose or seal the mage’s power on command. A noblewoman such as Amalia isn’t supposed to be a Falconer, and Zaira has spent her entire life in the gutter hiding from the Falcons. But Zaira is too potent a weapon for anyone to ignore. Amalia will have to win over the furious warlock and take a more active political role when it becomes clear that someone is fomenting war between Raverra and Ardence, a neighboring client realm where Amalia has many friends. It’s a pleasure to journey with shy and slightly awkward Amalia as she puts her scholarship in magic and puzzle-solving skills to good use, gaining confidence and proving that perhaps she’s not as politically unskilled as she thought. There is an obvious but still sweet, star-crossed incipient romance between Amalia and Marcello Verdi, lieutenant of the Falconers. That Amalia and Zaira will eventually build trust feels like a foregone conclusion in books of this type, but debut author Caruso does a decent job in creating moments of doubt and tension at key points in the novel.

Charming and solidly fun.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-46687-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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

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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 magical mystery tour through the mythologies of all cultures, a unique and moving love story—and another winner for the...

AMERICAN GODS

An ex-convict is the wandering knight-errant who traverses the wasteland of Middle America, in this ambitious, gloriously funny, and oddly heartwarming latest from the popular fantasist (Stardust, 1999, etc.).

Released from prison after serving a three-year term, Shadow is immediately rocked by the news that his beloved wife Laura has been killed in an automobile accident. While en route to Indiana for her funeral, Shadow meets an eccentric businessman who calls himself Wednesday (a dead giveaway if you’re up to speed on your Norse mythology), and passively accepts the latter’s offer of an imprecisely defined job. The story skillfully glides onto and off the plane of reality, as a series of mysterious encounters suggest to Shadow that he may not be in Indiana anymore—or indeed anywhere on Earth he recognizes. In dreams, he’s visited by a grotesque figure with the head of a buffalo and the voice of a prophet—as well as by Laura’s rather alarmingly corporeal ghost. Gaiman layers in a horde of other stories whose relationships to Shadow’s adventures are only gradually made clear, while putting his sturdy protagonist through a succession of tests that echo those of Arthurian hero Sir Gawain bound by honor to surrender his life to the malevolent Green Knight, Orpheus braving the terrors of Hades to find and rescue the woman he loves, and numerous other archetypal figures out of folklore and legend. Only an ogre would reveal much more about this big novel’s agreeably intricate plot. Suffice it to say that this is the book that answers the question: When people emigrate to America, what happens to the gods they leave behind?

A magical mystery tour through the mythologies of all cultures, a unique and moving love story—and another winner for the phenomenally gifted, consummately reader-friendly Gaiman.

Pub Date: June 19, 2001

ISBN: 0-380-97365-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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