Picking up right where The Dragon Eater left off, J. Scott Coatsworth’s The Gauntlet Runner continues the story of Raven, Aik, Silya, and Spin. Oh my gosh, Spin! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Aik is searching for Raven, Raven is settling into an entirely new phase of his life, Silya – now the Hencha Queen – is Gullton-bound, trying to help her people. And Spin… Holy heck, Spin!

No, I’m not going to tell you anything more about Spin, that’s a reveal that I won’t spoil for you. But I will say that this breathtaking fantasy trilogy has just stepped into the Science Fiction camp, while keeping the other foot firmly planted in Fantasy. Wowie.

As our trio of protagonists walk separate paths, each striving toward their personal goal, we readers are treated along the way to a deeper exploration of the planet Tharassas. The worldbuilding is expansive, interwoven, and seriously twisty. Humanity’s place on Tharassas isn’t what we think it is. I mean, it isn’t even what everyone on Tharassas thinks it is. But Raven’s well on his way to figuring it out. As the author slowly reveals a secret that the planet has put up with for a very long time, we start to learn the history behind everyone and everything’s place and purpose.

I was pleased to see that second banana Aik got a starring role in his own adventure this time, one I got thoroughly immersed in. It’s a real thrill ride that never lets up, and is magnificently described for us gapemouthed readers.

But enough about plotlines. I also want to talk about character development. Raven, Aik, and Silya are teenagers, with all the complex tangles of joy, confusion, agony and discovery that is a part of growing up. The author may throw them into astounding situations, but he never loses sight of the fact that our would-be heroes aren’t even adults yet. And that makes their trials and tribulations all the more meaningful.

You can buy The Gauntlet Runner at Amazon.

An afternote about what’s coming next: I’m savoring the anticipation of reading the third book of this trilogy, The Hencha Queen. The title tells me this will be Silya’s story, but it’s also going to need to bring the trilogy to a conclusion. Considering how many questions still need to be answered and how many situations need to be resolved, it’s a lot to ask of one book. But I’ve come to trust J. Scott Coatsworth. I know he has a passion for both science fiction and fantasy. I also know he’s actively engaged in his local LBGT+ community, provides a huge amount of support to queer authors, and as I’ve seen in this series, writes realistic queer characters. I have faith that the last leg of the journey will be satisfying.

Lori Alden Holuta
Lori Alden Holuta

Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields in Michigan, where she grows herbs and vegetables when she’s not playing games with a cat named Chives. She’s fond of crafting, reading in the dark, literary worldbuilding, and pulling up dandelions. Visit Lori at brassbrightcity.com and ceejaywriter.com.