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Formats
paperback Details
  • 04/2020
  • 979-8640278514 B087L4Q9LJ
  • 291 pages
  • $9.99
H. O. Tanager
Author
Kaleidoscopic
When a mythical creature terrorizes fifteen-year-old Aise’s village, she must seek out potent artifacts to protect her land from invasion by Edda, Queen of the North. Aise has always struggled with overwhelmingly vibrant emotions, but now this sensitivity to her inner landscape will help her wield the powerful artifacts. Aided by her adventurous best friend and an exceptionally handsome stranger, Aise races to find the artifacts before Edda razes the land. She gains strange abilities with each artifact and saves defenseless villages along her way, discovering sources of power she’d never imagined. The artifacts are meant to heal and protect, not to wage war. But after a tragic loss and a charm gone wrong, Aise might meet violence with violence, and let fire rain down on them all.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 8.25 out of 10

Assessment:

 

Plot: Sharply written and enchantingly inventive in many of its particulars, Tanager’s memorable epic quest fantasy finds exciting new variations on familiar beats, though the plotting itself often is familiar, episodic, and predictable. Savvy genre readers will intuit immediately that heroine Aise will quickly get dispatched from her village onto a quest, and that she will discover that she possesses powers that she doesn’t yet know about, powers that will reveal themselves in moments of danger. The quest itself is somewhat vague, involving seeking out “artifacts” and wise women, and the dangers Aise and her companions encounter, both incidental and plot-driven, turn up at regular intervals. But the worldbuilding, friendships, magic, and creatures are enthralling, the climactic revelations about the villains and Aise’s companions are surprising, and the pacing is ideally balanced between relationships, wonder, mystery, and storytelling momentum.

Prose/Style: Tanager’s prose is superb. It’s inventive, plummy, playful, and dead-serious, like all the best fantasy. Touches of poetry bring this singular world to life without fuss, quick eruptions from the first-person narrator emphasize what matters most in a scene, and the action is always crisp and clear. Scenes of Aise and her companions traveling and facing dangers are enlivened by fanciful but concrete description and the kind of inviting, character-revealing dialogue that invites readers to linger over the page, savoring their time with these personas. The prose is so strong that it almost makes up for the familiarity of the plot’s set up and storybeats.

Originality: The hydra hamsters, golem mice, milk leeches, banshee kittens, and emphasis on seeds, flowers, and butterflies distinguish this fantastic world from many others. Tanager insists upon making fantasy truly fantastic, much to the novel’s credit. Still, the storytelling is strikingly indebted to famous fantasy predecessors, such as Avatar: The Last Air Bender and The Lord of the Rings. The quest’s culmination feels more distinct than its beginning, but it is the characters, creatures, magic, and scenecraft that resonate here, rather than the dated plot.

Character Development: Tanager's engaging cast reveal themselves through dialogue and action –and all of Aise's companions (and the villain!) harbor enticing secrets. Tanager excels at chatty camaraderie (her crew loves to crack each other up with puns) and telling, character-revealing details. Aise is slower than the reader will be at grasping the significance of what is going on or the mysteries of her own power, though, which occasionally proves frustrating.

Date Submitted: August 12, 2020

Formats
paperback Details
  • 04/2020
  • 979-8640278514 B087L4Q9LJ
  • 291 pages
  • $9.99

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