Kate Elliott, author of the compelling Jaran book and one of science fiction's most gifted and vibrant talents, begins Crown of Stars, a new fantasy series guaranteed to win her an even more appreciative audience.

It begins in the troubled kingdoms of Wendar and Varre. Uneasily joined together under the rule of King Henry, the two lands are torn by the threat of civil war as Henry's sister Sabella declares herself to be the legitimate ruler. To enforce her claim, she gathers an army and ensorcels one lord after another to join her cause, including the independent Count of Lavastine and Alaine, his master of hounds.

Meanwhile, the fearsome Eika are once again pillaging the countryside. But this time, instead of their usual random raids, they seem to be attacking with purpose. And when they take the city of Gent and destroy the troop of Black Dragons led by Henry's bastard son Sanglant, it becomes clear that something earthshattering in impact is afoot.

Ms. Elliott is a master storyteller who paints vast panoramas filled with striking characters and mesmerizing storylines. Although much is left unresolved for later books, this gripping and suspenseful tale will keep you enthralled to the last page. (Feb., 544 pp., $22.95)

Reviewed by: 
Melinda Helfer