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Sara M Schaller
The Testament of Thirteen
He wanted to discover who he was, but is he prepared for his destiny? Are any of them? After the events of the unbinding, Jordan finds himself alone in Hell’s clutches with a new ruler in the Underworld, one set on causing chaos. Surrounded by enemies and with no means of escape, Jordan’s future is uncertain. Meanwhile, in the depths of a Geneloom lab, Dane and Sophia struggle with their newfound inherited abilities. The only way out is if they learn how to control them, but mastering their skills means handing over immeasurable power to their captors. All hope seems lost, especially with the angels missing, and as the Union of the Spheres draws closer, everything relies upon their return. The only chance Jordan, Dane, and Sophia have at reuniting their found family is if everyone fights their own battles. But Lilith is on the loose and out for blood, and she has every intention of taking it. In this epic conclusion to the Empyrean Trilogy, nothing is guaranteed. Will Jordan and his friends succeed in the final war, or will evil vanquish good once and for all?
Schaller’s epic adventure of heaven, hell, and the mortals trapped between comes to an appropriately realms-shaking conclusion in this final volume of the Empyrean Trilogy, in which a couple of human friends, cut off from the angels that have helped them so far, must find a way to stop Lilith, the mother of blood magic, from gathering the keys she needs to bring about the Union of the Spheres, a ritual granting the power “to dominate any land.” Jordan, Sophia, and Dane have faced dire odds before, but this time one’s literally in Hell, while the others, now winged and imbued with unfathomable power, are held captive by forces committed to controlling them.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, and Schaller again proves adept at generating page-turning tension from her blend of the divine, the infernal, and the human. Winged and wielding hellfire, her heroes must dig up grit and ingenuity first to escape and then to prevail. Even Satan himself, one of many first-person point-of-view characters, is fully rounded and engaging as he faces a fascinating challenge: how to escape the wastelands of Purgatory, with or without the help of angels eager to kill him. Meanwhile, Lilith proves an arresting villain, her will and strength terrifying. Fantasies with a theological bent demand on-the-fly explanations of how their worlds work, and Schaller is deft at ensuring the sphere-prisons, rules for flying, and everything else make sense—and, crucially, connect to characters. (A glossary helps.)

For all the apocalyptic action and satisfying revelations of parentage and ancient secrets, the story’s heart is in its characters, their choices, and their connections. As in many of the strongest ongoing series, moments of reunion and parting prove as exciting as scenes of climactic combat. Especially strong here are the ones following the climax; the tears shed as angels and humans part feel earned.

Takeaway: This superior heaven-and-hell fantasy series comes to a satisfying (and epic) conclusion.

Great for fans of: Jackie Morse Kessler’s Hunger, Mary Ting’s From Gods.

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