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October 26, 2023

A Couple of Fantasy Novels to Add to Your Reading List

by MK French

If you are still looking for books to add to your Halloween reading list, I have a couple of fantasy novels to recommend. If you enjoy young adult fantasy, be sure to check out my recommendations from earlier this month.

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

An Unexpected Ally
by Sophia Kouidou-Giles

book cover of Greek mythology novel An Unexpected Ally by Sophia Kouidou-Giles
October 2023; She Writes Press; 978-1647425555
ebook, print (192 pages); Greek mythology

Circe leaves her island Aeaea for Delos after Odysseus leaves her, and meets the amphibian god Glaucus. She embarks on underwater adventures, sharing her knowledge about herbs with him. But Glaucus is enthralled by Skylla, a beautiful mortal girl who is indifferent to his attention. After Circe returns to Aeaea, she finds out there's trouble in Delos. She's determined to use her abilities to fix the problems there.

Beginning with the end of her part in Odysseus' journey, Circe first learns about Delos and Glaucus from the men she had turned into pigs. Odysseus wants to return home to his family after a year with her, and she lets them go while plotting her next conquest. From here, it diverges from what is known in myth into Circe's own story. She usually finds it easy to entice men, whether due to her own beauty or with potions and Glaucus seems immune to her charms. Of course, it makes her chase him all the more, but she becomes friendly with Skylla, who does nothing to encourage Glaucus.

Myths don't usually look kindly on Circe and Skylla (or Scylla, depending on the translation) is barely a footnote for most tales. Here we see the two women interacting with others and get a glimpse of them as people. Skylla is an ordinary but beautiful girl, interested in island life, and Circe eventually strikes up a friendship with her even though she's interested in Glaucus. This infatuation dims over time, especially when she sees Glaucus for who he is. I felt bad for her because her mother did nothing but put her down, people gossiped about her, and she was essentially a chess piece for gods to move around as much as mortals were. This book is a slim volume giving voice to the figures in the periphery of the grand epics and lets us see the ladies of myth banding together to improve lives destroyed by selfishness. 

Buy An Unexpected Ally at Amazon

The Art of Destiny by Wesley Chu

book cover of fantasy novel The Art of Destiny by Wesley Chu
October 2023; Del Rey; 978-0593237663
audio, ebook, print (672 pages); fantasy

A prophecy stated that a chosen one would defeat the Eternal Khan, an immortal god-king. It was wrong. The former chosen one is now an ordinary young man, but Jian may still have an extraordinary destiny. He continues to train with Taishi in her family’s powerful war art. Jian still has much to study, so Taishi recruits a band of elderly grandmasters to train him. In addition, assassin Qisami is protecting a powerful noblewoman and discovers friendship, family, and a new purpose. Sali's clan is exiled, and she must lead them in a search for a new home.

The Art of Destiny is the second book in the War Arts Saga, following The Art of Prophecy. Jian is still learning here, though he's far better in skill than in the first book, for all that he makes mistakes. He has a long way to go before learning all that Taishi knows, so she must find more teachers to improve his skills. Each teaches him something different, furthering his education and helping him grow into a better person. Qisami was demoted for not bringing Jian's head to who had hired her and is taken in an elaborate trap to meet the duchess. While she normally wants to avoid the dukes and all their schemes, this duchess has gravitas and presence as well as skills of her own to keep Qisami in her employ. Sami is dying but searches for a cure to remain leading and to be a good aunt.

Jian's is the main thread, so it's easiest to connect to his part of the story. I enjoyed Qisami's portion and felt the most distant from Sami's. Jian is surrounded by war heroes who don't live up to their hype, so I felt sorry for him and hoped he could grow and learn how to become more of the man the prophecy once held him to be. Qisami did more spycraft than assassin work, and her group became a little found family. Sami's only concern was the cure, but finding it carries a cost she isn't willing to pay. Of course, the threads eventually intertwine, much as they had in the first book, and it's very cleverly done. The threads don't quite fall into each other the way you expect, and it sets up the third book of the trilogy with a dire note from the oracle, of course. This book took me much longer than expected to finish because there's so much detail in it, and so many layers to keep track of. It's a great follow-up to the first novel, and I have faith that the finale will be just as good.

Buy The Art of Destiny at Amazon

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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