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Salvation Taverns
Nearly half a century after the methodical slaughter of the rookes who wandered the land of Aerda, weaving stories and inspiring the citizens of the growing empire, only one rooke remains. It has long been his duty, a task he traded his name for, to spread the tales that keep the dragons in a peaceful slumber. When the Seven Aspects of the Relic task him with the quest of rekindling the hope and respect that once accompanied the role of a rooke among the people of Alleysiande, he must decide whether or not to risk everything to stop the destruction that accompanies dragons when they awake. But imperial spies still linger in the dark, and news of a remaining rooke travels fast. It will take all the skill of The Rooke and his friends to evade the Spytes clamoring to put an end to his stories.
Warm, clever, and balancing playful narrative ambition with the traditional pleasures of its genre, Goldsmith’s ambitious fantasy, her debut, centers storytelling itself as an act of heroism, bringing pleasure and imagination to those who dwell in the novel’s many taverns but also something deeper. “Language and music are magic in themselves,” says the Rooke, a man robed in red, the last of his kind, dispatched on a most unlikely quest: to reawaken love of stories and the truth about a mythic, dragon-rich past in those oppressed by imperial rule. Stories spun by rookes—and then re-told by the people moved to reach into a rooke’s robes for a coin—also have a traditional side effect: soothing those dragons, who aren’t so mythic after all. They’re only sleeping.

Salvation Taverns offers a classic quest narrative, complete with a party of do-gooders, accumulated over chapters, pursued by strange creatures and elite soldiers (here, Spytes and the Scarlet Bans) and facing overwhelming odds, in this case an empire that bans books and demands citizens wear metal sleeves denoting each individual’s trade and standing. But Goldsmith balances the escapes, travels, friend-making, and betrayals with the tales of the Rooke, who in each chapter visits a tavern (The Dragon’s Toenail; The Glittering Raptor) and unspools a yarn. These awaken something in the listeners, reveal urgent backstory, and give Goldsmith opportunity to play in a host of fantasy subgenres.

The stories feature demons, pirates, purple foxes, and a host of figures of legend. Their narratives often are connected, with characters making multiple appearances. Before the Rooke regales a tavern, Goldsmith often devotes a perspective section to new characters who will become embroiled in the cause. This fills out the cast and world, but—combined with the storytelling—comes at the expense of narrative momentum. But Goldsmith’s fantasy asks readers to dig in deeper than most page-turners: it’s about gathering, sharing a tale, and making one’s own magic in the world.

Takeaway: Fantasy of storytelling deftly blending the epic and the cozy.

Comparable Titles: Ellen Kushner’s Thomas the Rhymer, Travis Baldree’s Legends & Lattes.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-