A striking and intricate fantasy that’s skillfully bolstered by echoes of real-world conflicts.

THE ASHEN PROPHECY

This epic fantasy sequel finds retired peacekeepers drawn into an all-consuming magical war.

King Cato Regulus rules from his capital city of Veriasi. But he’s become frail, and his adult children, Prince Bolus and Princess Seles, prepare for his death. In celebrating Regulus’ 40th ruling year, well-wishers gather in Veriasi. These include Magnus “the Phoenix” of Coventa, a valuable but retired general, along with his wife, Kera. During the festivities, Magnus and Kera halt an assassination attempt by killers dressed as Lyrians. Weeks later, someone succeeds in murdering the Lyrian emissary as his ship returns across the ocean. Bolus sends the Black Lions, a mercenary group, to Elysium, the Lyrian capital, to “assure the consular government that we had no involvement in the attack.” Fearing the worst from the mercenaries, Seles asks Magnus and Kera to follow and keep the peace. She also introduces them to terracite, a crystalline mineral that provides “magic without magic.” The coastal Lyrians mine terracite from mountainous land belonging to the Ashen, tribes whose lives revolve around magic and the worship of Velestra, the Great Seamstress. Consul Shinrar has outlawed magic, believing that “terracite is the great equalizer.” Once in Elysium, Magnus and Kera learn that the mineral’s swift transformation of Lyrian life brings a steep cost. Morea deftly layers a remarkable variety of narrative tones in this second epic fantasy to star Magnus. Allusions to conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq feature heavily, from the parallels between terracite and oil to the use of the word insurgent. At other times, the story runs like an engaging procedural thriller, as the hunt for whomever is causing chaos pushes Magnus and Kera to embed with the locals and absorb every detail. The author’s villains don’t step from the shadows so much as from their complex humanity. As Janus, leader of the mercenaries and a potential friend of Magnus, tells him, “We aren’t here to fix all their problems.” Morea’s love of fantasy drives the stirring finale in which two characters chosen by a prophecy, Elam and Lilith, ignite the region in a magical war.

A striking and intricate fantasy that’s skillfully bolstered by echoes of real-world conflicts.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-66-499824-5

Page Count: 515

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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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 charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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