FeaturedUrban Fantasy

Sirens Unbound: Book 1 of the Fifth Mage War

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Loved it! 😍

Members of the Bant family become entwined in an upcoming mage war in this epic urban fantasy novel about sirens, fae, and family ties.

If it's true, as Tolstoy said, that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, then adding magick to the equation complicates matters even further. Take Amy Bant: one of four Bant siblings and a main character in Laura Engelhardt's expansive and impressive urban fantasy novel Sirens Unbound (Book 1 of the Fifth Mage War). Amy, an accomplished Harvard neurosurgeon, has developed an experimental operation to fix magical blindness among mages for the powerful Danjou enclave. Her father died when she was young, and her mother passed away soon after. Amy's other siblings include Cordelia, an agoraphobic underwater photographer; Thomas, a playboy with a Brazilian tourism business; and Mary, a choir director with a truth-teller husband who works for the government. Except for...a lot of that information is false.


Cordelia and Thomas are actually sirens--magical constructs with the ability to transfer human fertility to the fae to avert faerie extinction. Sirens are bound by an inherited restrictive blood-geas: humans (or "mundanes") are unaware of the existence of sirens, and sirens are unable to reveal themselves. Hence, Cordelia and Thomas' lies. Worst of all, Amy's mother Mira isn't really dead; her siren transition was just complicated and unwieldy enough to prevent contact with her human daughters.


The sirens have been bound since the Third Mage War, and much of Engelhardt's novel is concerned with the Fifth--focusing equally on politics and main players. Cordelia is involved in the Atlantic siren government and advocates for freeing the fae, who have been imprisoned and weakened by land salted with iron and steel at the hands of the mages. Thomas saves the bound mage Kyoko from her life-sucking vampire captor Gerel, a mission with grave consequences. While Amy and Mary's husband Mike are both involved with the Danjou enclave, Mira is trying to interpret an oracle's premonition about how the Fifth Mage War will be won. The results depend on the intervention of certain people, called pivots, but who are they?


Engelhardt has constructed a wonderfully engaging world with plenty of intriguing magical and political elements, particularly the fascinating desire/repulsion dynamic between sirens and humans. Sirens Unbound is also a great family story about fraught relationships and painful secrets. I did wish that we spent more time with the fae and that the ending was more of a climax, but there's tons of room for that in sequels. Especially with a war inevitably brewing.

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Michelle Hogmire is a West Virginian writer with an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University. She's the co-founder of the Appalachian social justice publication The Haint. Her work has been featured in BOMB, KGB Bar Lit Mag, and Columbia Journal. She's currently finishing her first book in Chicago.

Prologue: Thirty Years Before

About the author

An avid sf/fantasy reader, Laura writes the kind of book she likes to read: fantasy with intricate worlds and complex characters facing moral dilemmas. She is currently a mediator and arbitrator in New Jersey. view profile

Published on July 29, 2019

Published by

130000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Urban Fantasy

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