cover image The Ranger of Marzanna

The Ranger of Marzanna

Jon Skovron. Orbit, $15.99 trade paper (528p) ISBN 978-0-316-45462-9

Skovron (Empire of Storms) launches his Slavic-influenced Goddess War series with this intricate, well-told fantasy. Sixteen-year-old Sebastian Turgenev Portinari has a rare talent for elemental magic, but his skills are inhibited by his father’s efforts to keep them a secret from the ruthless Aureumian Imperial Army, who recently conquered their homeland of Izmoroz. Sebastian’s sister, 18-year-old Sonya, is hiding her own secrets from the empire: she’s the last of the renowned Rangers of Marzanna, the devoted disciples of the Goddess of Winter, who the empire believes it exterminated. Where Sebastian is immature, sensitive, and vulnerable to the influence of others, Sonya is devoted to her relationship with the goddess and determined to reclaim Izmoroz from the Aureumian invaders. After imperial soldiers kill their father, the siblings are transported to the capital city, where Sebastian is conscripted into the army and persuaded by volatile Cdr. Franko Vittorio to use his powers in service of the empire, setting him and Sonya on a collision course. Both perspectives are depicted with depth and nuance, making the inevitability of their confrontation all the more painful. Skovron does an admirable job balancing large-scale and interpersonal conflicts, and strong supporting characters and cultural specificity add texture. This is epic fantasy done right. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary. (Apr.)