Thrilling while remaining both emotionally and logically true; readers will regret bidding farewell to Amalia and her...

THE UNBOUND EMPIRE

Caruso completes her epic Swords and Fire trilogy (The Tethered Mage, 2017; The Defiant Heir, 2018), based in a Venice-like city at the heart of an empire where magic can be wielded like a weapon.

Sadistic (and, unfortunately, immortal and nearly invulnerable) Witch Lord Ruven of Vaskandar prepares to launch the large-scale invasion he’s been threatening for two previous books, infiltrating Raverra via the dangerous magical hybrids known as chimeras and an alchemical potion that puts the drinker, however reluctant, under his control. Meanwhile, Lady Amalia Cornaro, a young Raverran noblewoman with an unorthodox link to the fire mage Zaira, works to convince the Serene Imperial Assembly to pass a law freeing mages from government control, a tricky proposition given that mages are the Serene Empire’s best defense against the Witch Lords’ magic. She’s also still torn emotionally between Marcello, the Falconer Captain she loves, who is politically unsuitable as a husband, and a somewhat better match, Kathe, the mercurial and not entirely trustworthy Witch Lord she’s beginning to care for despite herself. The personal and the political converge explosively as Ruven’s plans come to dreadful fruition: He transforms Marcello into a chimera forced to obey his will and strike at Amalia where she is most vulnerable. Amalia must depend on both Zaira and Kathe to protect and support her as she puzzles out how to defeat this seemingly indestructible foe while trying to guard both her heart and integrity from further injury. Once again, Caruso admirably refuses to pull her punches, for the most part. Bad things happen to good people and choices have real consequences. The book convincingly and compellingly completes Amalia’s transformation from a shy, scholarly young woman reluctant to grasp the reins of power into a capable politician willing to do what is necessary and expedient even if it means a personal sacrifice. Caruso’s writing has also grown in complexity and nuance as the author has charted Amalia’s course.

Thrilling while remaining both emotionally and logically true; readers will regret bidding farewell to Amalia and her friends.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-46693-6

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 19, 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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