A sword-and-sorcery novel as cerebral as it is pulpy.



In Edwards’ fantasy novel, the first in a series, two friends on a rescue mission find themselves in the midst of a magic war.

Ranvir, a dream magician–in-training–turned–itinerant rogue, and his friend Broga, an exile from a scattered nation, are searching for Broga’s half sister, Ovandu, whom they believe has been sold into slavery. With the help of a magical tracking beast, the travelers follow Ovandu’s trail to the remote desert city of Kanavar, perched on either side of a massive gorge: “The absurd size of it alone—up, down, across—dizzied me. It was like an upside-down mountain range, replete with vast fissures, unlikely outcroppings and strange, eroded rock forms. The bottom was lost in an all-consuming black.” They manage to bluff their way through the gates disguised as a famous wizard and his slave. There they find a city split between two rival factions; both employ powerful magicians to help them seize control of the whole. Ranvir and Broga want no part of a civil war. They want only to find Ovandu and escape before anyone realizes they aren’t who they say they are. They can’t avoid the messy conflict, however, especially when it becomes apparent that one side is attempting to bring to life and enslave the massive statue of the city’s legendary god. Even worse, when they finally find Broga’s half sister, they learn that the Ovandu before them is not the Ovandu they once knew. In addition to the novel, the book contains the short story “Helldriver Alley” by Edwards and James Palmer. The tale follows Ranvir and Broga on an earlier adventure in which they and their comrades investigate a mysterious plague and make a discovery that feels outside of time and space.

Both novel and short story are sword-and-sorcery tales turned up to 10 with a dash of verbose Lovecraft-ian weirdness to give the story some extra darkness. Edwards isn’t afraid of alienating the reader with his worldbuilding. In fact, it seems to be the greatest source of his authorial joy, like here where Ranvir contrasts the desert with the rainforests of his homeland: “To my ears, the desert stillness was a hollow and stultifying roar. Nature in its fullness meant the lively whistle and flutter of Ixzahl. The high tsee-tsee of yellow skógard in flight. Noisy woodcreep chatter. Monarch sharps. Insect hum. Pocket-sized skipti flitting from branch to branch.” The fast-talking Ranvir is a fun protagonist, and his complicated relationship with the brooding, vengeance-fueled Broga provides a necessary emotional heart to the novel. The well-crafted prose does make the reader work, and the plot moves slowly under the weight of its own backstory. The result is something like if J.R.R. Tolkien had written a Conan the Cimmerian novel. It likely won’t appeal to the average fantasy fan, but there is surely an audience for whom this is the perfect combination of serious and sensational. For those lucky fans, more volumes will follow.

A sword-and-sorcery novel as cerebral as it is pulpy.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-30463-2

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Imperiad Entertainment

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2021

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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.


A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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