Ryan’s (Touched by Death, 2018, etc.) first romantic fantasy in a new series tells the story of an inexperienced magic user forced into a war.
In a massive country known as the Archenon, Dionna is training to be a Pyromancer, a sorceress who can control and weaponize fire. Before she can take her Assessment and graduate, her academy is attacked by the Silithik, a race of giant, monstrous beetles with whom the Archenon have had an uneasy truce. The Silithik slaughter most of the other students—and all but one of the other would-be Pyromancers—after sneaking in through a window that Dionna left open while meeting her boyfriend for a nighttime tryst. Now that war with the Silithik is back on, every fighter in the Archenon must prepare for battle. Dionna is assigned to a Quintelaide—a platoon of soldiers composed of one master from each of several disciplines—as their replacement Pyromancer even though she has grave doubts about her abilities as well as near-crippling guilt. In order to defend her country and redeem her mistakes, she’ll have to win the trust of her team, including its Warrior, Jaxon, who lost his love in the attack. Ryan’s prose effectively captures the adventure and whimsy of the sword-and-sorcery genre as well as its magic: “The fireball became white-hot flame the moment it left my fingertips, a thousand hearths compressed into a single sphere the size of my fist.” It also includes some romance-novel eroticism, which gives it an unexpected extra dimension: “I yelped as he hefted my body as easily as one lifts a cup of wine, and then he was kissing me again, tongue prying apart my lips and dancing with mine.” Throughout, the author proves to be highly competent in both of these modes, and as a result, the novel as a whole offers readers a satisfying bit of easily digestible escapism. Fans of Ryan’s earlier Gryphons vs. Dragons series will particularly enjoy this novel, which serves as prequel and promises more installments to follow.
A sexy, swashbuckling sword-and-sorcery fantasy.