A vivid, engaging, if bulky fantasy in which violence carries the day.

PRINCESS OF SHADOWS

THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING

An implacable young woman breaks royal boundaries in this medieval fantasy.

Gimlé is an island realm divided into regions of varying light. Arthur, King of the Light, Shadows, and Dark, rules from Triad Castle. He enforces the Code, laws written by Arthur the Hammer six generations ago. With Queen Sophia, his children are 10-year-old Aemond and 6-year-old Aeryn. When an upstart named Grayson begins preaching against the Code and inspiring rebels to pillage the realm, Arthur and his adviser Robert Darnald summon nearly 1,000 men from among loyal lands to stop the rebellion. Arthur’s force squashes the opposition, but a leading traitor named Murat escapes. Later, at a Council meeting of lords, Dux Bogdan Keseljevic says the Code is antiquated. He begins scheming for the throne, drawing Arthur once more into battle at the Citadel of Eternal Light. Upon Arthur’s battlefield death, Keseljevic becomes regent and demands that Sophia turn over the children. The royal family flees Triad, but only Aeryn escapes captivity. She reunites with Robert, vowing revenge against those who took her family. Growing up in the Shadows, Aeryn learns sword fighting and becomes a fearsome young woman. She forms lifelong friendships with Dux Chandrasejhar’s son, Rishi, and her companion Robyn Nakagawa. Unfortunately, Aeryn makes fresh enemies, too. Alexander’s engrossing novel is steeped in detailed medieval politics and battlefield tactics. The most prominent fantasy element is Gimlé’s strange, fixed relationship to the Eye—the planet’s star—which causes plants to move, “not with the wind, but so as to have the light of the Eye fall on the leaf.” The battles are depicted with vibrant gore, as in the line “Arthur’s next cut took off the arm that had been holding the shield.” But they do highlight Aeryn’s absence from much of the narrative’s first quarter. Though willful and imaginative, the protagonist is easily lost in the sprawling medieval panorama. Killing eventually becomes Aeryn’s signature talent as she seeks vengeance and possibly a new life. While the tale offers a rousing finale, it slights powerful queens throughout both fiction and history.

A vivid, engaging, if bulky fantasy in which violence carries the day. (map, character guide)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7361984-2-1

Page Count: 446

Publisher: Alton Kremer

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

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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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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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