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David Litwack
The Maker of Worlds
If you had the chance to remake the world, what kind of world would you choose? When tragedy strikes Lucas Mack's young life, he desperately yearns to escape its sorrow, and takes an improbable leap through the mythical maelstrom. Rather than splashing down on the far side like his neighbors, he's transported to a magical realm where he has the power to redefine not only who he is, but the world in which he resides. As he stumbles about trying to find his way, he meets Mia, an equally troubled fellow pilgrim. With the help of a mystical guide and an aging wizard, they navigate the enchanted land while learning to control their newfound powers. Yet this realm is more complex than they expected, with seasoned sorcerers who've been corrupted by the sinister side of magic. Limited by natural law and seduced by magic's power, they are tested as never before. Will the gift of magic bring renewed hope or drive them to the edge of the void?
Following the death of his beloved, the hero of this polished portal fantasy from the author of The Seekers series braves a maelstrom and embarks on a journey to a new realm, eager to escape his misery. In that new world Lucas encounters curious characters who already know his name, a tyrant eager to “gobble up” the free lands, and above all else wondrous magic, which grants our grieving hero the power to manipulate his surroundings through magic, though he quickly learns that practice makes perfect, and that there are limits to what even magic can fix. After meeting a host of the surprising new companions that are a key pleasure of stories like this, Lucas learns that he is one of this new realm’s handful of sorcerers—and that another sorcerer has created a fortress to lord over the local inhabitants. At first, Lucas seems content to live and let live, until he asks himself and Mia, a stalwart new companion, “Can the way to a new life start with the way of the coward?”

WIth an expert hand, Lathwick crafts wonders and challenges for The Maker of Worlds, casting a series of atmospheric spells that immerse readers in the fantasy: the warm, comforting feel of the home of the custodian who welcomes Lucas into his power; the melancholic colors of the village Ironforge, facing times as hard as that name; and the rich yet dark castle fortress that recently appeared out of nowhere, to which village kids are lured by enchantments under the crescent moon.

Litwack brings a classical approach to the fantasy, magic, and dialogue (“Magic is everywhere, even in your old world, if people would believe”), spinning a story touched with myth, fairy tale, friendship, and classic hero’s-journey adventure beats that connect, touchingly, to Lucas and Mia’s psychological scars. Readers favoring dense lore dumps and intricate magic systems should look elsewhere. Instead, as villagers rise up against their oppressor, Litwack offers spooky enchanted forests, charming characters, and touches of wisdom.

Takeaway: Second-world fantasy in a classical mode, alive with charm and character.

Comparable Titles: T. Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places, ​​Charles Stross’s The Fanily Trade.

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