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August 14, 2022

3 Fantastic Books for Fans of Fantasy

by MK French

There are a number of great fantasy novels coming out this month and here are three you don't want to miss. One book you can get today and the other two you will want to put on your wish list or just go ahead and pre-order.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson

book cover of fantasy novel High Times in the Low Parliament
August 2022; Tor. com; 978-1250823021
audio, ebook, print (160 pages); fantasy

In an alternate 18th century London, Lana Baker is Aldgate's finest scribe. She delivers a message in exchange for kisses from another scribe but is sent to Low Parliament as a punishment from an angry fairy. Debates in Parliament are tense, and a hung vote will cause Parliament to flood and return to endless war. Lana must work with a fairy named Bugbite and a human deputy named Eloquentia to save humanity.

It's never clear what made the fairy angry with Lana, but she's sent to Low Parliament anyway. Those that pass through the gates are unable to leave without permission; if they try, they die in quicksand or by drowning. This alternate world has Angland and other countries of the British Isles as separate countries, and European countries are also present in Parliament. Fairies had determined this was the best way for humans to communicate, avoiding the yearly wars that used to happen. Women are in charge, and are trying to make everything happen; I don't think there's a single male character in the book other than a figurative Hanged Man. In a world where yeast and common mushrooms make people high, it seems fair that its social structure is different, too.

Lana is the kind of character that is perpetually silly, taking nothing seriously and intending to flirt her way into friendship or assignations. She uses this method to make a friend out of the fairy overseer for the scribes, and charms her way to speaking with a Parliament member. The trio is concerned about the possibility of humans drowning and seems to be the only ones that don't want it happening. Everyone else is more interested in getting their own points across, which definitely seems to be the point. The conclusion is just as goofy as Lana is, as she bumbles her way through. This is a quick and silly romp through a fantasy land, cute and fluffy with little bits of seriousness in it.

Second Spear by Kerstin Hall

book cover of sword and sorcery novel Second Spear by Kerstin Hall
August 2022;; 978-1250250179
audio, ebook, print (288 pages); sword & sorcery

Tyn survived a vengeful goddess and learning truths that left her estranged from her role as guard. Now that she knows who she is, her frustration erupts in all the wrong ways. It's when an old enemy returns with a weapon able to destroy an entire realm, Tyn must decide what her future will be.

This is a sequel to "Border Keeper," which I hadn't read. Even so, this novel starts off with Tyn recovering from events in the first book and explaining some things to a brand new recruit causing problems. On top of that is a trial for the bad guy, so we're brought up to speed pretty quickly. Of course, the trial doesn't go according to plan, and Kan Buyak is s exonerated. This truly kicks off the plot for this novel, which is fascinating. Gods and demons in different realms, God killer weapons and a quest for allies are all major things for Tyn to deal with, especially when the allies she's working with on her journey don't exactly like her. She hasn't been especially likable so far, but the deaths from the first book were traumatizing. Even for a hardened warrior, seeing friends and healers killed as a way to draw her attention is still something to shake her spirits. 

The book is a complicated journey through different realms with the purpose of finding allies. The Mkalis system is fascinating, with gods, demons, and different realms that have their own rules and realities. Tyr is a warrior, and her last life was that of a scholar. The two aspects are expected to be diametrically opposite, but it's her study that ultimately leads her to find a way to combat her enemy. Tyr holds her ruler and superior officer in high esteem, but she's usually called Upstart. I can see why, because she doesn't always do the expected thing, and questions tradition. This and her need for the approval of those she cares about drives her forward. It's a thrilling fantasy system and one that will be wonderful to explore as the series continues.

Buy Second Spear at Amazon

The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

book cover of coming of age fantasy novel The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez
August 2022; Del Rey; 978-0593156599
audio, ebook, print (544 pages); fantasy

The Moon Throne is controlled by a despotic emperor and his monstrous sons, known as the Three Terrors. All four hold the countryside hostage, oppressing everyone in their kingdom with the powers inherited from the god beneath the palace. Accompanied by the guard Jun and outcast Keema, the god escapes from her own children, the triplet Terrors. The trio begins a five-day pilgrimage in search of freedom and a way to end the Moon Throne, a journey more dangerous than any of them could have imagined.

This novel begins in second person - a grandmother telling a story based on myths. Within the dream court, stories and plays are played out, telling the story of the Emperor and the Terrors. It's a fascinating way to start, as the second-person POV can be very difficult to pull off. It works very well here and gives a very personal experience reading the book. You feel like the narrative pulls you in, especially as the story grows more layers and characters. The Terrors have enemies enough, and various tribes and villages seek to kill them. The goddess and Empress is old and dying, with little bursts of power, so she can't fix all their problems. Jun is the First Terror's favorite son, and no longer wants to kill and maim in the name of the Moon Throne. Keema has one arm and a tendency to make vows that he keeps until his death. The two young men are also saddled with a tortoise that isn't as psychic as its brethren, but who wishes to roam free again. This just so happens to be in the same direction as the Empress must go, but the treacherous land and people aren't beholden to Her at all. If anything, the Terrors are determined to do whatever it takes to lock her up again.

As a goddess, the Empress doesn't care about people, feelings or problems that don't impact Her directly. The Emperor and the Terrors are the same way, and the power they hold means this inhuman unconcern leads to the death of commoners. It's fascinating that we have their ghosts speaking as well as the living characters, and we have the history of our unnamed "you" as well. The story of the Holy Week pilgrimage is one that has the hallmarks of mythology we might learn in school, and I was sucked deeply into this tale. I had to see if Keema and Jun made it to the end, as I cared about their journey and how it would affect them. The Empress was distant and kind of like a plot device, the magical macguffin that everyone was fighting for. Later, when we see more of her past and she takes action herself, we see her as an actual character. 

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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