cover image Madrenga


Alan Dean Foster. WordFire, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-68057-145-5

Foster (The Unsettling Stars) shows off his worldbuilding chops with this dense, immersive series starter about a shape-shifting boy and his pets. Counselor Natoum recruits the unlikely Madrenga, a homeless child with hidden depths, to deliver a sensitive message from Queen Alyriata of Harup-taw-shet to Queen Zhelerasjju of Daria. Madrenga hesitantly accepts the assignment, taking his pony, Orania, and puppy, Bit, along with him on what will be a perilous journey. Almost immediately, they are beset by bandits seeking to intercept the message. Madrenga is about to surrender when Orania and Bit rise up and kill one of the brigands in a show of supernatural strength. Madrenga is bewildered, but continues on his way, and with every challenge he and his animal companions face—from crossing a snow-covered river and outrunning angry villagers, to surviving the Sea of Shadows and slaying a frost dragon—he discovers new powers within himself and his pets, growing steadily bigger and stronger after each confrontation until his newfound strength becomes more curse than blessing. Rip-roaring action sequences and the mystery of Madrenga’s curious powers propel the story through a series of consistently surprising twists and turns. Foster’s series is off to a promising start. (Nov.)