Epic fantasy fans listen up: This is the good stuff. Highly recommended.


The first installment of Ford’s Age of Uprising saga is unadulterated epic fantasy set in an aetherpunk realm where the mining and innovative utilization of magic-powered pyrestones have made the nation of Torwyn a virtual empire of industry.

The guilds rule Torwyn—and have for generations. Although newly crowned Emperor Sullivar reigns over the realm, it’s the various guilds that are the lifeblood of the nation—controlling the military, transit, mining, farming, etc. But when an emissary from Malador—a country that has been enemies with Torwyn for thousands of years—attending Sullivar’s coronation and with a potential peace treaty in the balance is assassinated and Fulren, Sullivar's young nephew, is falsely accused and essentially sentenced to death by being sent to Malador for punishment, Fulren’s mother, Rosomon Hawkspur, realizes treachery is afoot. As fanatics from the Draconate Ministry, Torwyn’s ecclesiastic power, begin a masterfully planned coup, Rosomon and her children—who are scattered throughout the realm—attempt to stop the rebellion. Conall, a captain in the military, is stationed at a remote outpost; Tyreta, Rosomon’s responsibility-shirking daughter, is visiting mining operations in the wild Sundered Isles; and Fulren, now a prisoner in an enemy land, attempts to stay alive long enough to unravel the conspiratorial mystery. Narrated from multiple points of view, the novel fully displays Ford’s ability to create dynamic and emotionally connective characters. Additionally, his ability to write and twist together numerous plot threads and have each one feel like the primary narrative makes this grand-scale tale seem less bloated and unwieldy. Although some sequences early on feel a bit contrived, once this mammoth novel gains momentum, readers should disregard this minor flaw and find themselves fully immersed in a story that features a virtual toy chest full of fantasy delights, including magic-powered land- and airships, demon lords, sentient goat-headed beasts, war eagles, pirates, and deified wyrms.

Epic fantasy fans listen up: This is the good stuff. Highly recommended.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-62956-0

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A well-constructed prelude to what promises to be an interesting series.


Dangerous intrigues and deadly secrets swirl around six ambitious young magicians competing for entry into a secret society.

In a world very much like our own, except that a certain percentage of humanity is born with magical powers, six extraordinarily gifted people in their 20s are invited to train for membership in the Alexandrian Society, which has carefully and somewhat surreptitiously preserved centuries of priceless knowledge since the (apparent) burning of the Library of Alexandria. At the end of one year, five of the six will be initiated into the Society, and the reader won’t be surprised to learn that the sixth person isn’t allowed to quietly return home. As the year advances, the candidates explore the limits of their unique powers and shift their alliances, facing threats and manipulations from both within and outside of their circle. For most of its length, the book appears to be a well-written but not especially revolutionary latecomer to the post–Harry Potter collection of novels featuring a darker and more cynical approach to magical education; these books include Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars, Marina and Sergey Dyachenko’s Vita Nostra, and Lev Grossman’s Magicians series. Blake also offers a significant dash of the older subgenre of students joining a mystical cult requiring a sacrifice, as in Elizabeth Hand’s Waking the Moon and Robert Silverberg’s The Book of Skulls. The character-building is intense and intriguing—such an interior deep dive is practically de rigueur for a story of this type, which depends on self-discovery—but the plot doesn’t seem to be going anywhere surprising. Then, the book's climax devastatingly reveals that Blake was holding her cards close to the vest all along, delicately hinting at a wider plot which only opens up fully—or almost fully—at the end, when it shoves the reader off a cliff to wait for the next book.

A well-constructed prelude to what promises to be an interesting series.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-85451-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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