cover image The Cage of Dark Hours

The Cage of Dark Hours

Marina Lostetter. Tor, $29.99 (464p) ISBN 978-1-250-75747-0

The second in Lostetter’s Five Penalties epic fantasy series (after The Helm of Midnight), this hefty, over-the-top volume—mercifully prefaced by a prologue reminding readers of the previous installment’s intricate plot—combines several story lines under “a grand scheme of wars and hidden magic.” Dark worldbuilding dominates much of the page count, detailing a magic system in which power springs from human bodies, a gift from a five-deity pantheon (though each god offers a gruesome penalty for rebellion), and positioning the city-states of Arkensyre on the brink of war, driven there by a so-called Savior whose teachings prevent the citizens from developing technology. Against this backdrop, Krona Hirvath, a Regulator responsible for keeping enchantments at bay, seeks to resurrect her dead sister De-Lia; Thalo Child, stolen from his parents to become an enforcing puppet of the Savior, experiences a tortuous maturing process; Mandip Basu, a potential Grand Marquis, learns the daunting price of leadership; and various distraught parents seek their missing infants. Lostetter creates a protracted mélange of shifting loyalties and bloody rituals wrapped in florid descriptions and foggy psychology. Even devoted fans may find this bloated outing exhausting. (Feb.)