Austin is an American grad student, on leave to mourn the death of his girlfriend, Rhi. Yet during a pilgrimage to her favorite place on the Welsh coast, he finds she may not be as dead as he thought. A pickpocket named Corinna claims to have stolen her memories. Rhi was a wizard from another world, she insists, and if Austin doesn’t trust her, that world will perish in an apocalypse of dragons.
Austin rejects Corinna’s story. Magic? Stolen memories? Dragons? Yet soon, a sinister figure begins stalking him. A glowing crystal speaks with a voice in his mind. When a creature too horrible to be natural attacks, snarling Austin’s name through mangled mandibles, he must reexamine his grasp of reality, or die.
Corinna might be his only hope. Can he trust her, an admitted thief, when the voice from the crystal calls her a liar? Meanwhile, Austin’s stalker creeps ever closer, murderous, implacable, and seeking a confrontation on which hinges Austin’s life, Rhi’s death, and the fate of two worlds.
Munz’s carefully crafted realm of Rhyll and its fantastic magical system are fresh and inventive; readers learn much about Rhyll through entertaining interactions between the protagonists and the displaced Rhyllians who inhabit Earth. Munz’s compelling concept of memory magic—transplanting people’s memories into objects or other people—comes with interesting ethical implications that are teased out through the narrative.
Austin and Corinna are an instantly likable duo. Corinna’s worldliness and quick wit are a perfect foil for Austin’s curiosity and occasional incredulity at his situation. Although at the times the exposition is heavy-handed, Munz keeps a suspenseful edge on his plot while suffusing his characters and Welsh setting with color. Fans of fast-paced, high-stakes fantasy will enjoy Munz’s work.
Takeaway: Dragons, memory magic, and the collision of the fantastic and the mundane will please portal fantasy readers seeking a new world to fall into.
Great for fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A