A well-crafted fantasy marked by tenderness and optimism.

THE BONDS BETWEEN US

BOOK ONE OF THE WEB OF WYRD TRILOGY

A woman with elemental powers finds love while taking on the devil in this debut romantic fantasy.

Writer Katya Anders moved to Venice, Italy, three years ago. She lives with her best friend, Nina, and after a tragic upbringing in the United States, Kat finally feels as if she belongs. But while researching local myths for her next book, she gets the sense that Venice hides something. “People were afraid,” she notices, “and they obviously had been for a very long time.” One day, she bumps into a musician named Matteo with “expressive chocolate eyes.” She feels instantly bonded with him, and they agree to meet the next day at the San Nicolò festival. At home, she discovers a tattoolike mark on her wrist with red and blue strands intertwined. This is a “soulmark,” which should be impossible for her to possess. Kat is secretly a Daski, born to a human and a frost jotun from Norse myth. Her people have been denied soul mates by the fate-controlling Norns. Nina, a hopeless romantic and an Undine (water elemental), helps Kat prepare for the date nevertheless. Matteo woos Kat with a lovely night out and also possesses the soulmark. Then, near a stone bridge on the island of Torcello, a portal opens. The devil emerges, demanding the souls of seven children. Ruhl’s series opener focuses on Kat and Matteo’s romance while offering a detailed fantasy backdrop featuring the Vaettir, or Norse supernatural beings. Research helps the couple and their cohorts, including Matteo’s hotheaded brother, Leo, learn about a woman’s deal with the devil two centuries ago that still haunts Venice. Tension builds as readers wait for Kat’s special “kedja” necklace to break, which will unlock her dangerous ice powers. That Matteo is a fire-powered “Salamander” adds to the impossible odds of their happiness together. The cast expands to include arrow-shooting twins Arun and Janara and even Hela, “goddess of the Underworld,” who promises to cause the protagonist and her circle further trouble. Kat and Matteo’s romance is explored with the youthful enthusiasm inherent to new love. The audience will be interested to see if the author rocks their boat in the sequel.

A well-crafted fantasy marked by tenderness and optimism.

Pub Date: March 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63988-258-8

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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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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Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

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MEXICAN GOTHIC

Moreno-Garcia offers a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, set in 1950s Mexico.

Inquisitive 22-year-old socialite and anthropology enthusiast Noemí Taboada adores beautiful clothes and nights on the town in Mexico City with a bevy of handsome suitors, but her carefree existence is cut short when her father shows her a disturbing letter from her cousin Catalina, who recently married fair-haired and blue-eyed Virgil Doyle, who comes from a prominent English mining family that built their now-dwindling fortune on the backs of Indigenous laborers. Catalina lives in High Place, the Doyle family’s crumbling mansion near the former mining town of El Triunfo. In the letter, Catalina begs for Noemí’s help, claiming that she is “bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin,” and that High Place is “sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment.” Upon Noemí’s arrival at High Place, she’s struck by the Doyle family’s cool reception of her and their unabashed racism. She's alarmed by the once-vibrant Catalina’s listless state and by the enigmatic Virgil and his ancient, leering father, Howard. Nightmares, hallucinations, and phantasmagoric dreams of golden dust and fleshy bodies plague Noemí, and it becomes apparent that the Doyles haven’t left their blood-soaked legacy behind. Luckily, the brave Noemí is no delicate flower, and she’ll need all her wits about her for the battle ahead. Moreno-Garcia weaves elements of Mexican folklore with themes of decay, sacrifice, and rebirth, casting a dark spell all the way to the visceral and heart-pounding finale.

Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-62078-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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