cover image The Kraken’s Tooth

The Kraken’s Tooth

Anthony Ryan. Subterranean, $40 (136p) ISBN 978-1-59606-979-4

Ryan masterfully combines vivid characterization and understated worldbuilding in the stellar second fantasy novella in his Seven Swords series (after A Pilgrimage of Swords). Seven cursed swords are scattered across the earth, each containing a demon. The fallen king Guyime is bound to one of these blades, and hopes that by uniting all seven, he will be freed from the one he carries. With the help of his traveling companion, Seeker, the only other survivor of a pilgrimage that ended in violent confrontation with a demon known as the Mad God, Guyime discovers that one of the weapons lies beneath the city of Carthula, “alongside the very heart of a kraken.” Their subsequent quest is as perilous and suspenseful as epic fantasy fans will expect. Ryan does a superior job of propelling the adventure along while simultaneously pulling back the layers of Guyime’s tortured backstory, and the robust fantasy world is described in clean, evocative prose (“The air was rich in mingled spices and the scent of roasting meats, a pall of steam and smoke rising from the carts of the vendors to linger over each packed thoroughfare. Guyime found the purposeful chaos of the place little changed from his previous visit”). Readers will eagerly await the next in the series. (Sept.)