Magic is both friend and foe in Kiser’s debut YA fantasy.
Carine Shoemaker hates magic. And dragons. Unfortunately, both of them are critical to the survival of the kingdom of Navafort. Carine’s sister was killed by the dragon Kavariel, who appears each year during the capital city’s festival. Though the dragon is deadly, the presence of his flame repels the Heartless Ones, dark magicians who represent a bigger threat to survival. This year, Kavariel doesn’t show, and the Heartless Ones sweep in. Carine must leave behind her parents and flee the city, ending up on a ship with the royal princes. While the heir apparent is a nonentity, Carine strikes up a friendship with the younger twins, David and Giles. The three make their way back to Esten and undertake a quest to locate the missing Kavariel and bring back dragon flame to save the city. In addition to braving the unknown, Carine and the princes face a threat from a new enemy, a sorcerer more powerful than even the Heartless Ones. Carine must overcome her fear of magic and its language and accept that her destiny lies in a direction she never imagined. Kiser’s thoroughly engaging fantasy includes all of the classic mythical creatures like merfolk, centaurs, fauns, and sorcerers. She also offers a mystery that enhances the fantasy adventure quest: who killed a Heartless One, and how is it possible? The novel veers in surprising directions and engages in cerebral concepts, like the power of language and the dichotomy (or similarities) of physics versus magic. Kiser creates a likable protagonist in Carine, who travels on both a literal and figurative journey to become the heroine she is meant to be. The princes, particularly David, are the perfect saviors and sidekicks.
A rousing saga of magic and mystery that leaves the door wide open for a sequel and more.