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Melissa McShane

Melissa McShane’s love of reading has been a constant in her life and she still remembers the places she lived by the books she was reading there: the Riddle-Master trilogy in New York, the Foundation series in Colorado, Howl’s Moving Castle in Texas, Crown Duel in Utah. That love of reading stayed with her after she settled with her family in Utah and grew into a love of writing, first critical essays and reviews, then fiction. Her family includes her husband (a long-suffering man willing to let ideas bounce off him at speed), four children (also long-suffering and happy to live off macaroni and cheese while Mom writes) and three very needy cats, one of whom is so dumb he frequently runs into walls.

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Servant of the Crown: Romantic fantasy with a twist

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Servant of the Crown by Melissa McShane

Servant of the Crown is a steampunk-flavored young adult romantic fantasy by Melissa McShane, published in July 2015. It is set in a well-imagined Victorian-era type of world where magic plays a lesser and socially suspect role. Alison, the young Countess of Waxwold, is summoned from her city to be a lady-in-waiting to the Dowager Consort of the kingdom for six months. This seems like a prison sentence to Alison, who enjoys her work in the budding printing industry and as a theater patroness, has no taste for court or social games, and no inclination to “sit around in an uncomfortable dress and keep the former Consort company” for half a year. But the royal summons from the queen cannot be gainsaid, so Alison grits her teeth and heads to the capital city of Aurilien, consoling herself with the thought that at least sh... Read More

Rider of the Crown: Large and in charge

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Rider of the Crown by Melissa McShane

Rider of the Crown (2015), the second book in Melissa McShane’s CROWN OF TREMONTANE fantasy series, is set a generation after the events in Servant of the Crown. The story initially shifts to a neighboring country to Tremontane, where the Kirkellan live, a fierce people who live a rustic life on the grassy plains and are known for their magnificent horses. Imogen is a young warrior of the Kirkellan, and a big and intelligent girl. As a talented leader of her tiermatha, a group of thirteen warriors who fight on horseback, and the daughter of the leader of her people, she expects to be named Wa... Read More

Agent of the Crown: The princess spy

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Agent of the Crown by Melissa McShane

Agent of the Crown (2016), the third book in Melissa McShane’s CROWN OF TREMONTANE fantasy series, shifts to a third generation of the royal North family: Princess Telaine North Hunter has been secretly working for her uncle, the king of Tremontane, as a spy for the last nine years, since she was 15. She’s deliberately created a public image as a frivolous, bubble-headed socialite, while she works behind the scenes to uncover plots against her country. Only the king and her maid (who is also an agent) are aware of her double identity. Telaine’s job is made somewhat easier by an inherent magical talent that she also guards as a close secret: she can instantly tell if anyone is lying directly to her. (A lie is indicated by bold font in the text, a trick that took me a few pages to catch on to.)

One night... Read More

Exile of the Crown: A queen in hiding

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Exile of the Crown by Melissa McShane

Note: this review contains a few spoilers for Servant of the Crown and many spoilers for the bonus short story “Long Live the Queen” at the end of that novel, which sets up Exile of the Crown.

In “Long Live the Queen,” a “five years later” short story that appears at the end of Servant of the Crown (2015), the first book in Melissa McShane's CROWN OF TREMONTANE series, Queen Zara North of Tremontane comes to terms with the realization that she has inherent magical power, a type that rapidly heals her f... Read More

Burning Bright: High seas adventure and romance, flame-broiled to taste

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Burning Bright by Melissa McShane

Twenty-one year old Elinor Pembroke, dreaming of fire burning all around her, awakes to find her room actually ablaze with an intense fire ― a fire she caused in her sleep. Elinor is able to quench the fire with simply a thought. The ability to not only mentally generate but also to extinguish fire makes her an Extraordinary Scorcher, the first British person with this high level of power over fire in over a hundred years. In this alternative Regency world, a few people have magical talents ― telepathy, flying, teleporting, visions, and more ― and those who have especially strong abilities are called Extraordinaries.

Elinor's dictatorial father is delighted that his nondescript middle daughter is suddenly an extremely valuable commodity in the marriage market: many men are interested in marrying a woman with a strong talent in order to produce gift... Read More

Wondering Sight: The price of vindication

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Wondering Sight by Melissa McShane

In Wondering Sight (2017), the second book in Melissa McShane’s THE EXTRAORDINARIES series, we return to a fantasy-touched version of Regency-era England where some people have magical talents ― throwing and extinguishing fire, shaping one’s appearance, flying, teleporting, and more. Sophia is an Extraordinary, one of the very few people who have particularly strong magical abilities. As a Seer, she can cast herself into Dreams, which show her future events as a series of doors in her Dreams that she can open and explore, as well as Visions, where she can see past and current events by holding an object that has a significant history with a particular person.

Before this book begins, Sophia, like Elinor in the first book, Burni... Read More

Abounding Might: Jaunting around colonial India

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Abounding Might by Melissa McShane

In Abounding Might (2017), the third book in Melissa McShane’s EXTRAORDINARIES fantasy series about Regency-era women with diverse magical skills, the setting shifts to British-controlled India in 1813, and to a new main character, Lady Daphne St. Clair. Daphne, who was a minor character in the previous book, Wondering Sight, is gifted with the magical power of Bounding, teleporting instantly from place to place. It's a highly useful skill to the British army, especially since she can Bound with anyone or anything that she is able to pick up off the ground (even momentarily), and Daphne is wildly excited to serve her country and have adventures.
... Read More

Voyager of the Crown: Adventures of an ageless ex-queen

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Voyager of the Crown by Melissa McShane

In a world where a minority of people have inherent magical powers, and in a country where such magical powers are viewed with deep suspicion ― particularly if wielded by people in power ― Zara North has a huge secret: she has the ability to automatically heal physical injuries to herself, even those that cause aging and death. What would be a mortal injury for anyone else simply puts her out of commission temporarily. Zara was the queen of Tremontane sixty years ago, during the events of Servant of the Crown, the first book in Melissa McShane’s CROWN OF TREMONTANE fantasy series. When she discovered her inherent magic in her late twenties, she... Read More

The Summoned Mage: Diary of a misplaced mage

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The Summoned Mage by Melissa McShane

Editor's note: At the time we are posting this review, this  99c at Amazon.

The Summoned Mage (2017) is the diary of Sesskia, a 27 year old thief and secret mage: secret because being a mage is viewed as an executable offense in her country of Balaen. But her magical powers have saved Sesskia’s life before, and in any case are a part of her very self that are both exhilarating and terrifying. So Sesskia wanders from place to place, seeking new magic spells (called pouvrin) and leaving clues behind her for other mages. So far Sesskia has gathered pouvrin for summoning fire and water, seeing through things, walking through walls, and moving objects with her mind.

Then one morning she is suddenly and magically hauled into a strange new world, where she recognizes n... Read More

The Wandering Mage: The turmoil of converging nations and magical systems

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The Wandering Mage by Melissa McShane

The Wandering Mage (2017), the second volume of the CONVERGENCE trilogy by Melissa McShane, picks up right where the first volume, The Summoned Mage, left off (so there are, necessarily, some major spoilers here for that first book). Their world was split apart many centuries ago by a misuse of magic, but now the worlds have converged again. A complex spell, involving the work of many mages, has helped to minimize the physical damage caused by the convergence, but its aftermath left our main character, the Balaen mage Sesskia, many miles away from her now-husband Cederic, leader of the Cast... Read More

The Unconquered Mage: The struggle toward unification

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The Unconquered Mage by Melissa McShane

The CONVERGENCE fantasy trilogy wraps up in The Unconquered Mage (2017), as Melissa McShane continues to explore the repercussions of the magical merging of two different worlds, with different language and cultures. Balaen and Castavir were split apart centuries ago by a complex magical spell that went awry. Now the two countries are reunited physically, as are our main characters, the Balean mage Sesskia, who narrates the story through her diary entries, and her husband Cederic, head of the Castavir mages. But there’s disunity of the countries from a political standpoint, and that’s echoed in Sesskia and Cederic’s relationship to some extent as well, as t... Read More

Pretender to the Crown: It takes a thief…

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Pretender to the Crown by Melissa McShane

Pretender to the Crown (2017) follows the adventures of Willow North, a professional thief who’s always been a lone wolf type of personality. Willow has an inherent magical talent for sensing worked metals: she both sees it ― even in total darkness and through walls ― and feels it. It’s a particularly handy talent for a thief, since she can see where metal jewelry is hidden and when guards with swords are approaching. Anyone with a strong magical talent is required by law to study to become a mage or “Ascendant,” but Willow holds such bitter feelings against Ascendants, who are typically arrogant and abusive, that she hides her talent and uses it for burglary instead.

Willow’s life as a thief gets upended when her former fiancé Kerish, who s... Read More

Guardian of the Crown: Struggles against middle-book syndrome

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Guardian of the Crown by Melissa McShane

Guardian of the Crown (2017), the second book in Melissa McShane’s SAGA OF WILLOW NORTH fantasy trilogy, picks up where the first book, Pretender to the Crown, left off. (It’s necessary to read that book first, and this review will contain some unavoidable spoilers for Pretender.) Willow North has left her homeland of Tremontane in company with her ex-fiancé, Kerish, and the rightful king of Tremontane, Felix Valent. Felix, who is only eight years old, is an orphan after his father was murdered by his brother Terence, who usurped the throne. Now Willow and Felix are in a neighboring land, Keri... Read More

Champion of the Crown: A battle royale for the throne

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Champion of the Crown by Melissa McShane

The battle for the crown of Tremontane comes to a climax in Champion of the Crown (2018), the final book in Melissa McShane’s SAGA OF WILLOW NORTH fantasy trilogy. (Obligatory warning: here be spoilers for the prior books, Pretender to the Crown and Guardian of the Crown.) The first book focused on the escape from Tremontane of Willow North, her ex-fiancé Kerish of Eskandel, and eight-year-old Felix Valant, whose murderous (and magical) uncle Terence has usurped the throne of Tremontane, pursued by the new king’s mag... Read More

The Book of Secrets: Introducing a magical bookstore with oracle powers

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The Book of Secrets by Melissa McShane

Helena Davies, a twenty-one year old who's been living in her parents' basement since dropping out of community college for lack of funds, is at loose ends and clueless about her future. She needs a job ― any job ― while she tries to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Surprisingly, the proprietor of Abernathy’s Bookstore immediately hires her, despite her sparse resume. But her new boss barely has time to have her sign an employment agreement (“I … swear to uphold the standards of Abernathy’s without fear or favor, and to seal its secrets in my heart”) when he’s murdered in the basement on Helena’s very first day.

As the sole surviving employee of Abernathy’s, Helena unexpectedly finds herself in charge of the bookstore … which is far more than an ordinary bookstore. Helena gets swept into a society of hidden mages ... Read More

The Book of Peril: Trouble with magical illusions

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The Book of Peril by Melissa McShane

Abernathy’s Bookstore is a powerful oracle, used by the community of mages to answer important questions and foretell the future. Its proprietor, Helena Davies, is a critical part of the bookstore’s oracular function: she takes augury slips of paper with questions on them from customers, wanders among the bookshelves until she finds a book that glows to her eyes, and sells the book to the customer as the answer to their question. The price for the augury is conveniently and magically printed inside the book on the title page, along with the customer’s name. It works great … until suddenly it doesn’t.

The trouble begins when the book that glows for a particular customer’s question has the wrong customer’s name magically printed inside of it. When the next request for an augury comes in, Helena finds three glowing books on the she... Read More