THE PHOENIX UNCHAINED
In a genre that can struggle with formulaic recipes, Lackey and Mallory manage to include the standard ingredients without making you feel as if you're eating the same old meal in this witty, compelling and engaging story. An interesting plot twist at the end makes it obvious that this is a series starter - book one of the Enduring Flame. Built upon strong characters, a solid plot and interesting action, this is nonetheless a fun, tail-chasing dose of fantasy realism.
In the 1,007 years since elves and dragons have withdrawn to their own worlds, humans, brownies and centaurs have lived together in peace. Magic has chosen only a few wild mages, who are called upon only in times of great need, to keep the worlds in balance.
Bisochim, a wild mage from the desert, suspects the world is unbalanced. So many years of peace have denied darkness the chance to balance light. As he attempts to re-introduce darkness, magic makes its own move, calling young Tiercel Rolfort to the long-forgotten high magic. As Tiercel learns about this magic, and how to wield it, Bisochim discovers an enemy attempting to thwart him. (TOR, Oct., 400 pp., $27.95)