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LOCKLANDS

Great fun, with nonstop action and with an escape hatch that would allow—dare we hope?—a sequel.

A thrills-and-spills conclusion to the adventures of Sancia Grado.

Bennett concludes his Founders trilogy, preceded by Foundryside (2018) and Shorefall (2020), with characteristically high-spirited mayhem. The magic of scriving, which is to say, melding two objects together to form weapons, tools, and the like, has been extended to humans and even whole cities, so that the medieval-tinged metropolis of Tevanne now roams the land, searching for transubstantiation: “Tevanne did not wish to have a body anymore. It had calculated many times that, should it shed this corporeal form, its intelligence should still persist in all the various lexicons and rigs throughout its empire.” Against the bad-tempered and ill-intentioned Tevanne stand characters we’ve met in Bennett’s previous volumes, but with considerable attention given here to their backstories: We learn, for example, that the keylike creature called Clef (naturally) once took quite different form, that Berenice and Sancia are more than comrades in battle, and that Gregor Dandolo has more resources than hitherto hinted at. And then there’s Crasedes Magnus, who has strong skills as a shape-shifter and, mercurially, is good one minute and bad the next; it’s for good reason that Clef in particular harbors deep hatred for him. Some of Bennett’s yarn concerns the origins of scriving, a bit of technological sorcery that, often put to bad uses itself, reveals some good sides as well and produces a happy ending—at least for the survivors. Bennett’s language sometimes runs blue, sometimes knotty (“The Keyship’s espringal batteries wheeled about and sprayed the night skies as the shrieker bolts descended”), and readers will be lost in its idiosyncrasies and the story’s plot turns if they haven’t read the first two books. The effort to do so is well worth it, though, for Bennett is a master of worldbuilding, and for all the novel’s far-fetched moments, everything seems perfectly logical on its own terms.

Great fun, with nonstop action and with an escape hatch that would allow—dare we hope?—a sequel.

Pub Date: June 28, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2067-9

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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IRON FLAME

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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