In Conrad’s fantasy debut, a conspiracy to depose a heroic dynasty threatens the welfare of four interconnected realms.
Lady Elandra, an all-knowing Nehemra goddess, rules the majestic kingdom of Heteras. Her people use hidden, magical gateways to access other worlds, such as Reptilia and Axilien. As Anazar, a record-keeper, prepares for a vacation with his wife and daughter, he receives word that the highborn Mozeh has exiled Lady Elandra to Axilien and installed himself in her palace. In Reptilia, Anazar’s half sister, Niva, learns of the coup and that Mozeh wants to possess the Marked Children—the potential rulers of Heteras. Once Niva reunites with Anazar, the siblings take the decaying journal of Lady Avia, the realm’s first female geologist, through a hidden gateway to a world called Earth. There, they hope to find Avia’s descendants and a legendary jewel that’s part of the terazite Seed; when its pieces are combined, the Seed will have power over all life on Heteras. Meanwhile, in Germany’s Rhineland, 18-year-old Rebecca Madsen struggles to care for her younger brother, Erik, who suffers from unexplained fevers and exhaustion. Their mother is dead and their father is estranged, but they face greater challenges when they cross paths with visitors from a parallel world. Conrad’s sparkling debut will pin readers to their seats with its descriptively dense opening, featuring cultures reminiscent of those in Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) and Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle (1980). Her gift for fantastic names is seemingly endless, as is her knack for weaving clever mythology, featuring elements such as nahai tea, which is “poison to the people who live beyond the lake.” The arcane system of travel between worlds employs lullabies, receding lakes, and the counting of stone steps—all of which contribute to the narrative’s overall dreamlike quality. After the laying of such fabulous groundwork, readers may be surprised to find that most of the story takes place on Earth. Near the cathartic ending, however, fresh questions arise to help jump-start the planned sequel.
A great start to a detailed, loftily imagined new fantasy series.