A powerfully dramatic retelling of a Hindu epic.

DESTROYER OF SORROW

From the The Sita's Fire Trilogy series , Vol. 3

This concluding volume of a fantasy trilogy focuses on the brave bride of a god.

The great Hindu epic the Ramayana forms the basis of this installment by Sheth, a mother-daughter writing team, following Shadows of the Sun Dynasty (2016) and Queen of the Elements (2017). The Ramayana is a sprawling story with a cast of thousands, and it’s been a frequent temptation for writers, from R.K. Narayan to Pearl Buck, to attempt to shape it into a modern narrative. This volume (gorgeously illustrated throughout by Johansson) concentrates on Sita, the bride of the god Rama, as she is brutally abducted by the demon Ravana and installed in his faraway kingdom as his queen despite the presence of a great many other female figures and servants already gathered there. “An extravagant harem,” Sita thinks. “I don’t understand why he adds me to his collection. Someone here must feel empathy for me. Surely, one of them can show me how to escape.” The harsh realities of her captivity quickly become apparent to Sita (“I know what happens to women like me,” she reflects), and the narrative follows the subtle evolution of her reactions to both Ravana and her own harrowing predicament. Sheth’s writing voice is completely vibrant and compelling—and this is lucky since the task the authorial team faces is almost impossible: making a third book in a trilogy comprehensible to new readers. Even the most supportive newbies will probably want to dive into the previous volumes before this one. Still, the audience will find Sita a strong and vivid character in this potent finale. Sita has a mystical connection to Earth, and her courage never deserts her during her ordeal, although some parts of her thinking gradually change. “I have the power to obliterate Ravana completely,” she muses at one point. “If I curse him, the Earth will hold my hand and join my cause. Together with the elements of nature, I can turn the ten-headed king to dust. Then why don’t I?”

A powerfully dramatic retelling of a Hindu epic.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64722-147-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mandala Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2021

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A gripping revenge story with enough twists to avoid becoming formulaic.

LORE

To get revenge for her family’s murder seven years ago, Lore must reenter a deadly contest from her past.

Leaving the conflict of gods and their hunters behind, Lore thought she had forged a new life. However, the Agon has begun again and brought with it an injured Athena, who promises her revenge on the one who ordered her family killed—in exchange for an oath binding their fates together. Lore must hunt down the god once known as Aristos Kadmou, with the catch that she only has eight days. Also, failure means the deaths of both Lore and Athena. Depictions of graphic violence and discussions of sexual assault are frequent, creating a tale as violent and unforgiving as its source material, albeit narrated through a feminist lens. Much like the heroes of ancient epics, Lore is a morally ambiguous but ultimately likable character, struggling to eliminate the monsters of her world while not falling into the brutality of her youth. She is contrasted with the idealistic Castor, her childhood friend and love interest, with whom she has plenty of chemistry. Bracken builds a rich world around a skeleton of ancient Greek mythology that is perfect to read on a dull weekend and sure to delight readers. Most main characters are cued as White; there are two men of color, both gay.

A gripping revenge story with enough twists to avoid becoming formulaic. (cast of characters) (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7820-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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