February 18, 2023

Review: The Keeper's Six

The Keeper's Six The Keeper's Six by Kate Elliott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kate Elliott does excellent worldbuilding, and this story is no exception. It's a two-hundred-page novella, but it packs enough background and worldbuilding for a full-length novel. Pair this with a sixty-year-old protagonist and grandmother who takes on a quest and faces down a dragon to save her son, his partner and their children, and you have a winner.

Esther Green is awakened in the middle of the night by a frantic call from her son Daniel: he's been kidnapped and taken to another Realm, across the dangerous multi-dimensional Beyond that is Elliott's version of the multiverse. Esther calls the members of her Hex, the six-person troupe that makes travel through the Beyond possible, and goes to the Realm where Daniel has been taken. There she meets and clashes with the dragon Zosfadal, who has been searching for Daniel's partner Kai. Kai, as we find out, is one of the dragon kindred imprisoned by magic in a humanoid body; and kwos is also a very special dragon, one who can bear hybrid children (as, indeed, kwos has done, giving Daniel two-year-old quadruplets). Five years ago, on a mission to find and destroy a Realm that engages in the trafficking of sapient species, Esther discovered Kai held prisoner in that Realm and brought kwos/him (Kai goes by both) home to Earth, where Kai and Daniel fell in love. But Zosfadal was involved in Kai's kidnapping, and he blackmails Esther both to find Kai and erase the debt the dragon owes due to his previous misdeeds.

Of course, Esther is going to do none of this, and the book is the story of her trying to maneuver through this sticky situation and save her son and grandchildren. Esther is a wonderful character: thoughtful, mature, stubborn, and doggedly determined. She clashes with the members of her Hex, five other well-drawn characters, and discovers something of a love interest in Zosfadal's lieutenant Shahin (although the fledgling romance is not the focus of the story). The complicated worldbuilding is dropped into the story a little bit at a time, mainly as Esther explains to Shahin how the Beyond works, and never overwhelms the narrative. The Beyond itself, as well as the various Realms (Earth is a "Schedule Four" Realm, a "minor" pit stop in the Beyond with very few people aware of the multiverse's existence) is a fascinating place, with monsters and bursts of interdimensional light that will burn you to ash.

In the end, though Kai is exposed for what he is, he is allowed to stay with Daniel and their children. Esther's Hex is fractured, with one member, the possibly traitorous Marianne, leaving to work for Zosfadal. This is a well-paced, thoroughly absorbing story, and I would happily read more (preferably a full-length novel) about these characters and world.

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