Blood’s Pride by Evie Manieri starts stronger than any first fantasy in recent memory, with the devastation of an entire civilisation, richly rendered from the perspective of an ill-fated fisherman who lingers too long on the shores of Shadar.
As the fisherman looked at the magenta sky, he saw a black splotch like a stain on the horizon, a shadow forming over the sea which spread and grew larger and until he saw not shadows but black shapes: great flying creatures. The fisherman recognised them at once as dereshadi, the beasts that carry the souls of evildoers down into the depths of the earth after death. Phantoms swarmed from the bowels of the ships, crawling across the decks and into the landing boats and mounting their flying beasts.
The phantoms were giants to the Shadari. Their pale skin was the colour of death, marred by oozing purple sores; grim matted their seafoam-white hair. They had the hollowed cheeks and gangly limbs of the starving, but they held aloft great, gleaming swords.