An entertaining, if uneven, blend of fantasy action and soul-searching.



A prince vying for success in his father’s competitive kingdom sets out to slay a dragon in this fantasy adventure.

In the realm of Guaraci, 17-year-old Eldred is the son of King Alfred, ruler of the Deirans. He attends the Academy as a squire, where skilled young fighters eventually Bond with the Night Mother, a deity who bestows enhanced strength and speed. Eldred, however, is overdue to Bond, and Headmaster Tibbot thinks he probably never will. The teen is half Mercian, thanks to Queen Ghyslaine, and is relentlessly teased about his unusually tall stature. If he fails his trial at the Academy, Eldred won’t become a warrior and will disgrace the king. This pressure pushes Eldred to attempt to cheat his trial, which his father discovers. Meanwhile, a massive dragon has been attacking the Wretched, a conquered people from the north. Sammanus, one of the Wretched, arrives and begs Alfred for soldiers to help the city of Turicum kill the dragon. The king plans to send five Bonded warriors and five squires, including Eldred. Ghyslaine wants to spirit her son off to her Mercian homeland to become a lord in her brother’s court. Determined to be a full-fledged Deiran, Eldred refuses. But the challenges he’ll face alongside Alfred’s men in Turicum are complex and numerous. Bracher’s hero may be a teenager, but this series opener is not the typical YA fantasy. Eldred isn’t distracted by romance at the Academy or haunted by familial drama. The bone-deep tension that’s eventually revealed is that the Deirans are pugilistic xenophobes, possessed of a deadly hubris. Alfred tells Sammanus, “I will send an expedition of our finest to slay this beast, not out of any affection for the Wretcheds, but to prove our greatness.” Eldred befriends Sammanus and learns that the Sun People (as the Wretched call themselves) are more thoughtful, innovative, and caring than the Deirans. Bracher’s worldbuilding is engaging, but the novel’s first third, filled with militaristic unpleasantness, mars the launch. Eldred’s—and the series’—potential flowers by the finale.

An entertaining, if uneven, blend of fantasy action and soul-searching. (map)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2022

ISBN: 979-8-7905-6537-3

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Independently Published

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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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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Spanning centuries and continents, this is a darkly romantic and suspenseful tale by a writer at the top of her game.

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When you deal with the darkness, everything has a price.

“Never pray to the gods that answer after dark.” Adeline tried to heed this warning, but she was desperate to escape a wedding she didn’t want and a life spent trapped in a small town. So desperate that she didn’t notice the sun going down. And so she made a deal: For freedom, and time, she will surrender her soul when she no longer wants to live. But freedom came at a cost. Adeline didn’t want to belong to anyone; now she is forgotten every time she slips out of sight. She has spent 300 years living like a ghost, unable even to speak her own name. She has affairs with both men and women, but she can never have a comfortable intimacy built over time—only the giddy rush of a first meeting, over and over again. So when she meets a boy who, impossibly, remembers her, she can’t walk away. What Addie doesn’t know is why Henry is the first person in 300 years who can remember her. Or why Henry finds her as compelling as she finds him. And, of course, she doesn’t know how the devil she made a deal with will react if he learns that the rules of their 300-year-long game have changed. This spellbinding story unspools in multiple timelines as Addie moves through history, learning the rules of her curse and the whims of her captor. Meanwhile, both Addie and the reader get to know Henry and understand what sets him apart. This is the kind of book you stay up all night reading—rich and satisfying and strange and impeccably crafted.

Spanning centuries and continents, this is a darkly romantic and suspenseful tale by a writer at the top of her game.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8756-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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