cover image Blackthorne


Stina Leicht. Saga, $16.99 trade paper (720p) ISBN 978-1-4814-2780-7

Leicht returns to the flintlock fantasy world of 2015’s Cold Iron with a dark and lively followup, picking up a few years after the human Acrasians invaded and slaughtered the nonhuman, magic-wielding Eledoreans. Nineteen-year-old Suvi, now queen, presides over the hold in the Grandmother Mountain of New Eledore, where refugees from the war are offered safety. Her twin, Nels, strikes out on his own against Suvi’s wishes, trying to help the Eledorean cause. Brooding, conflicted retainer Blackthorne, who keeps a terrible secret, has escorted the weaponsmith Tobias Freeson to the Hold. Freeson carries stolen books that contain incendiary information on gun manufacturing and could change the future of war, all while dangerous creatures called malorum roam the land. The fast-paced story contains all the trappings of exciting epic fantasy, but the large cast and multiple points of view can also have a dizzying effect. Leicht mostly focuses on the male characters, but she populates her story with plenty of swashbuckling, swaggering women who defy stereotypes and more than carry their weight among the men, including Capt. Gaia Julia, a Waterborne who helps Nels on the high seas and beyond, and Captain of the Watch Emma Drake, who didn’t get her job the honest way but is determined to escape the brutal fate of most common women. Leicht appears to be gearing up for a long series: the young characters have plenty of growing up to do, and a big world to do it in. (Aug.)