A diverting introduction to an inventive fantasy saga.

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In this fantasy series opener, characters in a vast empire face such threats as warmongers and otherworldly creatures.

The Heli Empire, it seems, is “always at war.” So when the Renali Kingdom, a bitter enemy, suggests peace, some anticipate resistance to a treaty. A summit brings diplomats to Renali, including scribe and priest-in-training Marco dei Toriam and his mentor, Father Justin Wisenpraal. Unfortunately, conflict awaits them: sword-trained Marco chases down an assassin targeting a Renali princess—a killer whom apparently only the scribe can see. Not only do some people at the summit reject the attempts at peace, they also may be inciting further clashes or even war between nations. Meanwhile, an enigmatic, clawed creature from another plane of existence enters this world, likely the vicious being behind the recent “Butcher Murders.” In a concurrent plot, skilled thief and orphan Jiminy flees from a bounty, though he’s not exactly sure what sparked the price on his head. As he hunts for answers, he winds up in league with someone who needs his prowess to loot an immeasurably valuable item. Though van Wyck condensed his debut novel in this second edition, the engaging story retains an epic scale. The cast is unsurprisingly extensive, but the tale largely focuses on Marco, Justin, and Jiminy. Their individual subplots prove the most exciting; for example, Justin, using his empath ability, blocks Marco’s memory of a past trauma. And Marco’s recurring nightmares tease his dark, ominous history. In addition, the author shrouds much of the innovative story in mystery: Jiminy embarks on a prolonged journey before learning specifically what he’s stealing, and clawed creatures appear in glimpses of the long-ago past (“The final days of the Age of Magic”). Despite the book’s bulk and deliberate pace, the author’s brisk dialogue complements his indelible, concise prose: “The unhorsed rider was borne to the ground, hard. The victor held aloft a broken lance, galloping the length of the pitch.” The ending leaves at least one character’s fate in question, practically demanding that readers keep their eyes out for the sequel.

A diverting introduction to an inventive fantasy saga.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 979-8721831485

Page Count: 617

Publisher: Independently Published

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2021


Warm and wonderful.

A prequel to the popular cozy fantasy Legends & Lattes (2022).

Viv is a fighter. It’s not just what she does, it’s who she is. So when she gets wounded during a battle with a necromancer’s skeletal wights, and her crew dumps her in a small seaside town to recover while they continue on after the necromancer, she is not happy about it. But soon enough, against her will, she’s drawn into the life of the town. There’s Fern, the unsuccessful bookseller, who has a knack for recommending exactly the right book. And there’s Maylee, the baker, who not only makes the world’s best baked goods, she actually winks at Viv. Before Viv knows what’s happening, she’s helping Fern out here and there, she’s reading—she’s involved. Meanwhile, there’s a pesky young gnome asking for an introduction to her mercenary crew, and a mysterious man in gray who looks like trouble. But Viv is leaving when her crew comes back through town. No matter what. This prequel gives readers a glimpse of Viv as a young orc, still committed to the fighter’s life, just taking an enforced break in a charming town populated by compelling, richly drawn characters, and the slightest hint of danger in the wind. Despite the lurking necromancer, the vibes are decidedly warm and cozy, and the plot is just as much about saving the bookstore and building relationships as it is about protecting the town from the man in gray. As a prequel, it can stand alone, but will certainly satisfy fans as well.

Warm and wonderful.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781250886101

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


A wonderfully enjoyable series opener.

YA giant Clare makes her adult debut with a whirlwind epic fantasy featuring secret plots, ancient magic, and hidden identities.

The nobility of Castellane know Kel only as Prince Conor’s aristocratic cousin and closest confidant, but a select few know the truth: Kel is an orphan plucked from obscurity because he bears a passing resemblance to Conor and proved able to handle being trained as Conor’s “Sword Catcher.” A Sword Catcher has all the typical duties of a bodyguard, but Kel’s responsibilities also include wearing a magical amulet that makes people think he’s Conor, allowing him to take the prince’s place at public events when the palace head of security deems it too risky for the prince himself. But when Conor becomes old enough to consider marriage, Kel learns that it will take more than hidden daggers to protect his charge. On the other side of Castellane society is Lin, a young woman who is a member of the Ashkar, a small community that's forbidden from living outside their walled community. The Ashkar are the only people who can still use magic, and even though using or even learning about most kinds of magic is banned, they are still feared and discriminated against by the rest of the world. Lin has worked hard to be allowed to study medicine even though she's a woman, but when her medical talents aren’t enough to help heal her best friend, she wonders if the answer lies in the study of forbidden magic. The tangle of political disputes and shadowy plots that leads to Kel and Lin crossing paths is not only thick enough to make the several hundred pages fly by, it will leave readers eager for a series full of twists and turns. Clare expertly balances the needs of a satisfying plot with dropping tantalizing hints of what’s to come in future installments. Her worldbuilding is instantly immersive, and the many characters are all detailed and memorable, so swapping between storylines flows easily for the reader.

A wonderfully enjoyable series opener.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9780525619994

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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