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THE MASK FALLING

From the Bone Season series , Vol. 4

A tantalizing, strategic setup for the next installment, which has all the ingredients to be a knockout.

The Pale Dreamer is back after narrowly surviving torture at the hands of the clairvoyant-hating Republic of Scion in The Song Rising (2017).

Scion would prefer you to think the Pale Dreamer is dead. And the dreamer herself, Paige Mahoney, is OK with that. The girl from the clairvoyant underworld of London is no more. Since defeating her previous mime-lord, Jaxon, and becoming Underqueen of London’s clairvoyant community–turned-rebellion, Paige has molded herself into the leader known as Black Moth. And while Black Moth has gained a vast following for the rumor that she single-handedly destroyed the clairvoyant-detecting system Senshield, she has barely escaped that victory with her life. After Paige is forced to flee London, the start of this long-awaited fourth installment of Shannon's Bone Season series finds her with her battle armor off, convalescing while in hiding in Paris alongside Arcturus Mesarthim, her controversial guardian and supporter. For those with rusty memories, Arcturus belongs to an immortal race known as the Rephaim, who were forced to leave the Netherworld as their home fell to ruins. Scion’s biggest secret is that it’s run by the Rephaim behind the scenes, most notably by Nashira Sargas, who seeks to control the world’s clairvoyant community to serve the Rephaim. Arcturus defied Nashira to help Paige seek rebellion, and now this oddly matched pair are bound to one another. Paige barely has time to rest when a new underground group, the Domino Programme, comes knocking. This network of free-world spies wants her help as they attempt to undercut Scion—which is planning to invade the Iberian Peninsula—from the inside using Paige’s gift as a Dreamwalker. Not used to taking orders, Paige balances risky operations within the inner circles of Scion leadership while trying to establish connections with the Paris clairvoyant syndicate. Between her duties as an agent as well as Black Moth, coupled with the exhausting will they, won’t they bit with Arcturus, it’s enough to make Paige literally out of breath. The constant slew of injuries, action scenes, and near-death escapes, which further shift the series’ genre from fantasy toward the dystopian realm, distracts from the excellent worldbuilding that is the tale’s beating heart. Sticking with Paige to the end will leave you with new secrets about the Rephaim and Scion’s future plans, along with an emerging threat that is sure to surprise—and will give readers hope that we have yet to learn everything about the potential of human clairvoyance. Thrilling, indeed.

A tantalizing, strategic setup for the next installment, which has all the ingredients to be a knockout.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-032-8

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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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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TRESS OF THE EMERALD SEA

Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.

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A fantasy adventure with a sometimes-biting wit.

Tress is an ordinary girl with no thirst to see the world. Charlie is the son of the local duke, but he likes stories more than fencing. When the duke realizes the two teenagers are falling in love, he takes Charlie away to find a suitable wife—and returns with a different young man as his heir. Charlie, meanwhile, has been captured by the mysterious Sorceress who rules the Midnight Sea, which leaves Tress with no choice but to go rescue him. To do that, she’ll have to get off the barren island she’s forbidden to leave, cross the dangerous Verdant Sea, the even more dangerous Crimson Sea, and the totally deadly Midnight Sea, and somehow defeat the unbeatable Sorceress. The seas on Tress’ world are dangerous because they’re not made of water—they’re made of colorful spores that pour down from the world’s 12 stationary moons. Verdant spores explode into fast-growing vines if they get wet, which means inhaling them can be deadly. Crimson and midnight spores are worse. Ships protected by spore-killing silver sail these seas, and it’s Tress’ quest to find a ship and somehow persuade its crew to carry her to a place no ships want to go, to rescue a person nobody cares about but her. Luckily, Tress is kindhearted, resourceful, and curious—which also makes her an appealing heroine. Along her journey, Tress encounters a talking rat, a crew of reluctant pirates, and plenty of danger. Her story is narrated by an unusual cabin boy with a sharp wit. (About one duke, he says, “He’d apparently been quite heroic during those wars; you could tell because a great number of his troops had died, while he lived.”) The overall effect is not unlike The Princess Bride, which Sanderson cites as an inspiration.

Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9781250899651

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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