The season's biggest SFF releases include an introduction to a compelling new fantasy world, a story of family and intrigue, and one very cranky dragon.
★ The Unspoken Name
Expansive and compelling, A.K. Larkwood’s The Unspoken Name has everything you’d want in a new fantasy universe. Csorwe, an orc disciple of a dark god known as the Unspoken One, is living on borrowed time. As a priestess, she will have to die as a sacrifice made to the Unspoken One. When a strange wizard saves her and takes her far away, Csorwe finds new purpose, traveling through the multiverse in search of an ancient artifact and finally discovering who she really is. Larkwood constructs her fantasy world with confidence and detail, and Csorwe’s journey from wide-eyed sacrifice to formidable warrior is satisfying and earned.
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Eoin Colfer, author of the beloved Artemis Fowl series, makes a hilarious and suspenseful return with the fantasy crime caper Highfire. Squib, a teenage troublemaker from Louisiana, witnesses a murder committed by a malicious crooked cop, Regence Hooke. Desperately trying to escape through the bayou, Squib is hauled out of the swamp by a completely unexpected savior: a dragon. Last of the Highfire line of dragons, Vern spends his days in his lounge chair watching Netflix. With this act of charity, Squib, Vern and Hooke find themselves on a collision course that’s sure to end in fire. Central Louisiana has rarely been as vividly rendered as it is here, as Colfer gleefully piles on the mud and muck from the very first page. Highfire is funny, menacing and unlike anything else I’ve read recently.
A sharp, simple concept launches a story of family and intrigue in The Unwilling by Kelly Braffet. Judah, a girl with no noble blood, is linked with Gavin, the heir to the city of Highfall. No one can explain why, but when one of them feels anything, from pain to happiness, the other feels it, too. When Gavin’s marriage and court accession threatens Judah with exile, she must discover how to break the connection and be free at last. Braffet has a real gift for dialogue, and Judah’s quick cleverness is a constant joy. This is especially welcome in the story’s darker moments, which never shy away from examining the most painful ramifications of Judah and Gavin’s magical connection. Readers will fall in love with the contemplative pace, brisk dialogue and rebellious heroine of The Unwilling.
Chris Pickens is a Nashville-based fantasy and sci-fi superfan who loves channeling his enthusiasm into reviews of the best new books the genre has to offer.