The Councillor

E.J. Beaton. DAW, $27 (448p) ISBN 978-0-7564-1699-7
Beaton’s slow-moving fantasy debut follows a volume of poetry (Unbroken Circle) and a PhD thesis on Shakespearean drama—and these influences manifest clearly throughout the saga of Lysande Prior, an orphan swept from indigence to be raised in the Eliran palace. When Lysande’s royal mentor, Queen Sarelin, is assassinated, Lysande, now 22, becomes the Councillor, tasked with selecting the next ruler of Elira. Elira is ostensibly a post-magical realm, the land’s former rulers, the elementals, having been ousted by humans with magic-neutralizing handcuffs. Now the last elemental power player, the White Queen, is suspected of Sarelin’s assassination. But no one suspects Lysande’s addiction to a magical potion, supplied by an elemental friend. Thus, while Lysande seeks the defeat of the White Queen, she’s equally driven to protect everyday elementals. This premise is typical of high fantasy, but the language, pacing, and relentless imagery—black roses, writing quills, and the colors gold and green feature prominently—are of a different order. In dense, occasionally overwritten prose, Beaton excavates Lysande’s inner life, sometimes at the expense of worldbuilding, which is maddeningly slow to cohere. The pace accelerates and stakes become clear once Lysande’s foil, Luca Fontaine, arrives in the mix—but it’s a long wait. Readers will need to be patient to get to the goods. Agent: Julie Crisp, Julie Crisp Literary. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 01/04/2021
Release date: 03/02/2021
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror
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