A gripping and swiftly paced mystical tale primed for a sequel.

TA LĘ

BOOK 1: KNOWLEDGE

Two young men in Africa confront a strange, frightening world of sorcery and spirits in this fantasy debut.

It’s been Kobenan Jean Marc’s dream to work with S-cell, the covert organization that “chases sorcerers.” Now, the 20-year-old African, the main analyst for the president of Côte d’Esperance, has his chance. The president enlists Kobenan to investigate a case with S-cell’s head, Biafle Herbert. It involves the death of a White minister in Brazil—from a heart attack that some attribute to African sorcery. Biafle and Kobenan start at Sector 0, a prison housing “the deadliest sorcerers, djinns, and lost spirits.” Kobenan is convinced one inmate, who predicted the minister’s death, is somehow connected to the possible murder. The investigators’ only option, it seems, is getting the prisoner’s help—by breaking him out of Sector 0. At the same time, 17-year-old African student Kouadio Joel has for years observed creatures that no one else can see. When one day he spots some of these beings fixated on a fellow classmate, he intervenes. These vicious creatures apparently retaliate by attacking Joel and his family at home and abducting a loved one. His search for this family member takes Joel to a forest teeming with otherworldly entities and spirits harnessing incredible powers. Kobenan and Biafle, with the prison escapee in tow, wind up in the forest as well, looking for a formidable sorcerer who may have answers. Though specifics are murky, a war is brewing, and Joel’s surreal new road ultimately intersects with the S-cell investigators’ path.

Yessoh’s riveting series opener moves at a steady clip. Even when scenes linger on the environment, readers continually learn more about the characters and the developing plot. For example, as Kobenan slowly walks through Sector 0 for the first time, he sees bizarre creatures (both inmates and guards) inside a seemingly inescapable prison. The novel’s action comes in exhilarating bursts, from Kobenan and Biafle’s fleeing alarmingly fast “prison dogs” to Joel’s facing off against ferocious beings. This furthermore showcases illustrative prose: “The hand on his face is not budging. Joel sharply pulls and jolts his head from the harsh grip. After a frenetic drag on the large shadow over him, Joel stares before him with wide eyes and disturbed, shortened gasps. There lies the fetish of wood, inert, devoid of red eyes, posing with its extended hand like a statue.” Kobenan and Joel, whose narrative perspectives alternate, are amiable leads; they selflessly confront danger to help others. Many supporting characters flaunt their unpredictability, as sorcerers, djinns, and spirits are both good and evil. In the same vein, the story gradually introduces mysteries. Beyond the death in Brazil, Kobenan and Joel may have surprising abilities of their own. But parts of the tale are intentionally vague, and the author leaves several unresolved questions by the end, presumably saving them for the sequel. While it’s disappointing certain characters’ fates remain unresolved, readers’ anticipation for the second installment will surely soar. The uncredited, black-and-white artwork throughout features myriad details, including some characters against plain backdrops with serene facial expressions.

A gripping and swiftly paced mystical tale primed for a sequel.

Pub Date: April 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77755-941-0

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Library and Archive Canada

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2021

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.

FOR THE WOLF

Twin princesses—one fated to become a queen, the other a martyr—find themselves caught up in an unexpected battle of dark magic and ancient gods.

Four hundred years ago, a Valleydan princess facing a loveless betrothal sought refuge in the Wilderwood with her lover, the Wolf. The legendary Five Kings—including her father and her husband-to-be—pursued them only to be trapped in the Wilderwood. Now, according to legend, the only hope of restoring the Five Kings to power lies in the ritual sacrifice of every Second Daughter born to Valleyda's queen. There hasn't been a second daughter for 100 years—until now. On her 20th birthday, Redarys accepts her fate and walks into the Wilderwood to become the Wolf's next victim only to find that the stories she grew up on were lies. The handsome man who lives in a crumbling castle deep in the forest is not the original Wolf but his son, and he wants nothing to do with Red or her sacrifice. Afraid of her wild magic abilities and the danger they pose to her sister, Neverah, Red refuses to leave the Wilderwood. Instead, she clings to the new Wolf, Eammon, who will do whatever it takes to protect her from the grisly fate of the other Second Daughters. Meanwhile, in the Valleydan capital, Neve's desperation to bring her sister home sets her on a path that may spell disaster for Red, Eammon, and the Wilderwood itself. Whitten weaves a captivating tale in this debut, in which even secondary characters come to feel like old friends. The novel seamlessly blends "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty and the Beast" into an un-put-down-able fairy tale that traces the boundaries of duty, love, and loss.

A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-59278-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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