A captivating look at the intriguing figures in King Arthur’s golden realm.

QUEEN OF NONE

After decades spent in obscurity, an ignored royal discovers how to make an impact late in life in this novel that reimagines the Arthurian legend.

Anna Pendragon has the misfortune of being the only full-blooded sister of Arthur Pendragon. Yes, that famous king. On the day Anna was born, sorcerer Merlin, the manipulator of Carelon, said of her: “Through all the ages, and in the hearts of men, you will be forgotten.” Anna is married off to the much older Lot of Orkney, bearing him three sons: Gawain and younger twins Gaheris and Gareth. Following Lot’s death, Anna returns home, surrendering Orkney’s crown to Arthur. She hopes she will be allowed to settle down with her true love, Bedevere. Instead, at Merlin's insistence, she is forced into an arranged marriage with Lanceloch, the knight who is Arthur’s current crush. Her exiled aunt Vyvian helps Anna to see the power inside of her, an ability to disappear in the shadows. Using a book of spells supplied by Vyvian, Anna creates Nimue, a comely young woman whose purpose is to seduce and entrap Merlin. The trouble is that Nimue develops a mind of her own: She isn’t ready to let go of her short life. Meanwhile, Anna starts to fade away while powering Nimue. Anna must get her creation back on track or perish. Barron, an established fantasy writer, appears right at home crafting this reinvention of Camelot. As the author unveils her new versions of well-known characters, it isn’t essential for readers to be familiar with Arthurian history and myth, but those who are will enjoy her twists. Her protagonist is ideal for providing an outsider’s perspective on the machinations happening in the Carelon court. But Anna’s curse keeps her from being as plugged in as she should be, having to rely on others—such as her half sister, Morgen, Merlin’s apprentice—for intelligence. The intricate narrative begins with Anna’s birth and then jumps forward. The story spans decades and feels a little draggy at times. But Anna’s righteous crusade to save her kingdom from Merlin’s schemes will propel readers past those slow spots.

A captivating look at the intriguing figures in King Arthur’s golden realm.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 325

Publisher: Vernacular Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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 perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

A DEADLY EDUCATION

From the The Scholomance series , Vol. 1

A loosely connected group of young magicians fight horrendous creatures to ensure their own survival.

Galadriel "El" Higgins knows how dangerous the Scholomance is. Her father died during the school's infamous graduation ceremony, in which senior students run through a gauntlet of magic-eating monsters, just to make sure her pregnant mother made it out alive. Now a student herself at the nebulous, ever shifting magic school, which is populated with fearsome creatures, she has made not making friends into an art form. Not that anyone would want to be her friend, anyway. The only time she ever met her father's family, they tried to kill her, claiming she posed an existential threat to every other wizard. And, as a spell-caster with a natural affinity for using other people's life forces to power destructive magic, maybe she does. No one gave Orion Lake that memo, however, so he's spent the better part of the school year trying to save El from every monster that comes along, much to her chagrin. With graduation fast approaching, El hatches a plan to pretend to be Orion's girlfriend in order to secure some allies for the deadly fight that lies ahead, but she can't stop being mean to the people she needs the most. El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with.

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12848-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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