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Shari Marshall
A dark urban fantasy, Vizard is a stand-alone prequel in The Ember Files Series. It details events that happened forty years before Kori Ember and the emergency of the Ember stone. Vizard follows Juniper Berry—later known as Astrid—through events that lead to the birth of her son, Belamey Adelgrief.
This fast-paced standalone prequel to Marshall’s Ember Files fantasy series digs into the backstory of Juniper Berry, also known as Astrid, with compelling elements of mystery and revenge thrillers. After a horrific attack on her family, one that she foresaw in a vision, Juniper is left an orphan at the age of thirteen. With the use of her apprentice level magic and the aid of supernatural mentors and friends, she faces many major life changes as she charts a course toward bringing the killers to account. She becomes a powerful vizard—"a skilled practitioner of disguising"—known as Rye, and as Rye beings to uncover the secrets behind the kill list naming her and many other Spellbinder families, she learns that she must keep her friends at bay and her enemies closer if she hopes to alter the future she's witnessed in a wrenching new vision—one that shows her future son, apparently abandoned, “somber and without smiles.”

Tension builds as Rye is warned not to fall for the marvelously named Nekane Adelgrief, “the embodiment of immorality and wickedness,” but Rye, an engaging protagonist whose zeal for retribution and redemption powers the story, sees him as her only way into The Society of the Blood Wind. Full of love, loss, found family, and hard choices, Vizard plays out like an origin story that keeps the pages turning, even for readers new to the series. Ember Files veterans will appreciate some familiar names and new perspectives, but this entry truly works as a jumping-on point.

Fantastical creatures and vivid villains highlight this emotional tale that balances thrills, twists, and Rye’s gutsy planning with intricate, imaginative worldbuilding and a crush of appealingly eccentric characters. Perfect for fans of inventive, character-driven fantasy, Vizard offers crisp yet evocative prose, brisk and funny dialogue, and a hero readers can't help but root for.

Takeaway: Brisk, exciting fantasy with a strong heroine’s memorable origin story.

Comparable Titles: Kelly Braffet’s The Unwilling, Taran Matharu’s The Novice.

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