In her first two novels, which give rise to hope that there will be an extended series coming our way, Ilana C. Myer creates a world of terrifying magic and beauty. Her descriptive language is vivid and arresting, and enhances the plot elements of poetry and magic that imbue both novels. If you love a lot of attention to settings and description, these books are for you!
In the first book, Myer’s debut novel Last Song Before Night, we are introduced to the seaside kingdom of Eivar, just as crowds of people are arriving in the capital city of Tamryllin, named in song as the white city by the sea, for a great festival. This includes a competition especially for poets, to win a prize called the Silver Branch and to establish a close relationship with the powerful Court Poet. In this world, poets are musicians who are trained at an island Academy and who compose and perform wonderful music. Young poets are coming from all over the kingdom to show what they can do, and maybe gain some power, influence, and fame in the process.
Unexpected events, including painful betrayal and a break with tradition so extreme as to be called a rebellion in whispers, overshadow the poets’ competition and result in unexpected alliances and journeys. Again, I’m going to say that the language here is stunningly beautiful, and it’s very effective both in creating a rich setting and intricate, gorgeously-drawn characters.
The second novel, Fire Dance, is new this year and features the new Court Poet (and no, I’m not going to tell you who that is) embarking on a diplomatic mission to the neighboring kingdom of Kahishi. Kahishi has its own cadre of poets and magicians who are trying to use their unique powers to understand the invasions of Fire Dancers, dangerous sorcerers that have been coming in from the North. Meanwhile, back at home in Eivar, the events of Last Song Before Night are generating new conflicts between the poets’ Academy and the Crown. This book is just as beautifully-rendered as the first. Both could, I think, be read as stand-alone books. But reading them together adds depth to the story and a better understanding of the characters’ thoughts and motivations.
Some first books of fantasy series include:
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter