An often clever mix of myth and legend in a contemporary setting, featuring a relatable protagonist.

CIVIL DUSK

An Orkney Islands fisherman with a hidden past encounters magic in Ordway’s fantasy novel.

This fast-moving work, shaped by Norse and Celtic mythology, opens by defining the term that gives the book its name: “The time of evening when the sun is six degrees below the horizon, when the light is still enough for you to see things…and for things to see you.” What protagonist Hugh Reid sees upends his life forever. After struggling to control his fishing boat during a storm at sea in 2018, he returns to his home on Scotland’s Orkney Islands, wondering at the unusual violence of the waves and the haunting song that he heard in the sound of the rain. But although the islands are steeped in tales of the supernatural, Hugh is impatient with people who believe in them—until he’s visited by a trow, “an ugly, stunted thing with pale, wrinkled flesh and gleaming, yellow eyes,” who guides him to a buried object of power, which the trow says he will need in a world-threatening conflict to come. Ordway cleverly draws on Orkney’s many traditional legends as she catapults Hugh into an epic adventure. The story involves a titanic struggle for dominance between the summer goddess, known as the Mither o’ the Sea, and the demonic winter spirit, Teran. A seaweed-maned water horse called a Nuggle, a goddess-channeling witch, selkies, and sorcerous Finmen make appearances, as do hidden places reached via a mysterious fog, an undersea kingdom, and a magical stone; the story also reveals the secrets of Hugh’s origins. The interplay between the various characters doesn’t always match the quality of the story; for example, the number of times that characters “smirk” becomes distracting. However, the author’s vivid depiction of otherworldly elements, the sea itself, and Hugh’s gradual acceptance of his true identity make for a rollicking read. At the conclusion, Hugh has an encounter with one-eyed Norse god Odin that teases a potential sequel.

An often clever mix of myth and legend in a contemporary setting, featuring a relatable protagonist.

Pub Date: May 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-48504-1

Page Count: 187

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 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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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 fast-paced plot packed with secrets makes this an enjoyable read in a slightly old-fashioned high-fantasy style.

CHILD OF LIGHT

A girl on the run must uncover the truth about her past in order to secure the future.

Auris has just broken out of a Goblin prison. If recaptured, she faces certain, gruesome death. She doesn’t know why Humans are penned up like animals, and she doesn’t know how she herself ended up in the prison. She remembers having parents who loved her, but not who they were or where they lived. All she knows is that she has to keep moving to stay alive. When she’s rescued by a strange young man with greenish skin who turns out to be Fae, she’s quickly drawn to him and to the beauty of the Faerie city he shows her. She yearns to belong somewhere, and why not in this beautiful city in the trees? But in order to win a place with the Fae, she must recover her lost memories of her own past and prove she’s not a danger to the community. The mystery of Auris’ past drives the plot forward, and secrets are revealed and new questions uncovered at an appealingly steady pace. Formal language, and the characters’ tendency to constantly and explicitly state how they feel (“His hand is stroking my hair and I let him continue for a moment, comforted by the feeling it provides”), keeps the reader at arm’s length. But Auris’ quest to understand herself and be accepted into a community is a compelling one.

A fast-paced plot packed with secrets makes this an enjoyable read in a slightly old-fashioned high-fantasy style.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-35738-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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