cover image A Crown for Cold Silver

A Crown for Cold Silver

Alex Marshall. Orbit, $26 (656p) ISBN 978-0-316-27798-3

The sprawling, warring cast and magical-medieval setting of Marshall’s series launch may look familiar at first, but exceptional writing, a middle-aged warrior heroine, and organically infused gender nonconformity make this fantasy epic a first-rate trailblazer. From the first, when former rebel leader and queen Cobalt Zosia all but dismantles the young officer sent to destroy her life, Zosia’s assurance and intelligence establish a commanding presence. Believing her successor responsible for the massacre of Zosia’s husband and village, she abandons her 20-year self-imposed exile and sets out with aching joints, palpable grief, and hearty libido to revive her rebel army. Marshall blends character, background, history, and action to create a seamless fantasy realm of weary mercenaries, randy adrenaline-fueled nobles, conflicted religious fanatics, old grudges, new betrayals, and one endearing demon dog. With a tactician’s skill, Marshall introduces elements of plot and character that are enlarged and enveloped in the central story line, but careful structuring never precludes chaotic action or emotion, nor does it undermine any of the third-act surprises. The hidden identity of the highly skilled, pseudonymous author adds an interesting wrinkle, and the splendid storytelling, wry humor, and unresolved intrigue will leave readers hungry for the sequels. (Apr.)