The greatest strength of J. Ellyne’s debut novel is its setting: prehistoric North America, approximately 9,000 years ago. Maginaugh portrays the conflicts and alliances of three very different cultures living in the region of the Great Lakes. The fantasy aspect of the novel arises not so much from magic, but from a well-imagined alternative history in a region that rarely gets attention from this genre.
The cast of characters is large and varied, as are their sexual preferences. J. Ellyne crafts romances in various stages of development (everything on the spectrum from innocent new love to seasoned, stable commitment can be found in this story), and interweaves these against an impressive backdrop of tragedy, vengeance, and war.
I’ve settled on a 4-star rating mostly because I think there are certain aspects of writing style and story delivery could use some polish. Nonetheless, with this first novel, Ellyne has established herself as a promising new voice in fantasy. I am very much looking forward to reading the companion novels to Maginaugh.