The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear

“Hoping to build on the dazzling triumph of her Eternal Sky fantasy trilogy (Steles of the Sky, 2014, etc.), Bear embarks on a new trilogy set in the same universe.

The opening scene, in which a caravan heaves itself across the icy peaks of the Steles of the Sky, takes the narrative, literally and figuratively, out of familiar territory and into the Lotus Kingdoms, the contentious, broken shards of the once-mighty Alchemical Empire. Here, by night a black sun that gives heat but little light occupies the sky, while days are lit by a brilliant ribbon of stars. Against this spectacular backdrop Bear introduces an array of fine characters…This impending clash of armies, intrigue, and magic—in which, notably, most of the main characters are female—only later emerges as truly existential. It adds up to a panoramic drama that grabs and grips from Page 1 and, despite the more leisurely pacing, never lets go. It certainly is captivatingly different in style and substance than Bear’s previous trilogy but no less vivid, absorbing, and thrilling.

In an overcrowded field, another entry that stands head and shoulders above nearly everything else.” — Kirkus, Starred Review