You don’t have to be a diehard fantasy hound to guess at the solutions to Zale’s troubles: a quest, of course—partially to undo his own act. Again setting Kramer’s appealing series apart is an infectious love of genre expectations and the skill with which he dances around them, at times gently tweaking them. “One does not simply dispose of the Grimstone,” a character says, of the MacGuffin. But Kramer’s spirited sense of fun never undercuts the stakes or the characters, as Zale’s story is always earnest and exciting, even the familiar elements, like the villains’ zeal to bring back an age of shadow.
Kramer imbues that shadow’s rise with evocative, even sumptuous detail, mining fresh possibility from light versus darkness. Zale and his crew—including strong new additions, like the grimkin warrior Enshuzu—again carry the story with buoyant spirit, the occasional chanty, and a welcome vibe of regular folks just doing what needs done, even as elements of destiny and lineages become increasingly prominent. Zale’s daughter Starlina displays exciting new growth, and the monsters, villains, and weird magic thrill.
Takeaway: Buoyant epic fantasy that enlivens the familiar and dares to surprise.
Comparable Titles: Michael J. Sullivan, Sam Sykes.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A