cover image To Blackfyre Keep

To Blackfyre Keep

Anthony Ryan. Subterranean, $40 (152p) ISBN 978-1-64524-085-3

Ryan’s fourth Seven Swords novella (after City of Songs) is an exemplar of the fantasy series installment that significantly carries the overall story forward while remaining accessible to first-timers. Former king Guyime, who was once known as “the Ravager” for his no-holds-barred approach to defeating his enemies and claiming territories, is on a quest to find seven legendary swords as part of his search for redemption. Accompanied by an array of allies, and carrying a blade that’s possessed by a chatty demon, Guyime arrives at a castle that may hold one of the weapons he seeks. But the castle’s past puts him and his company in danger: during an ancient revolt, Orwin Blackfyre, a baron’s son, swore “the bloodiest vengeance on any western lord the king sent to occupy his father’s castle.” A witch cursed Orwin for his viciousness, forcing him and his followers to hold the edifice “forever, even beyond death.” This leads to a perilous battle with the undead guardians of Blackfyre Keep, from which Guyime may not escape unscathed. As in previous volumes, Ryan’s atmospheric prose and nuanced characterizations set this apart. It’s another winner. (Sept.)