Jonathan N. Pruitt's debut novel, dark fantasy The Amber Menhir, has already achieved bestselling status within weeks of release, and upon reading it, you can understand why.

For its journey into the titular edifice, a monolith of magical power, thrills with wriggling corruption, bitter rivalries, and murderous ambitions.

The story follows three young protagonists – Tara Langcraw, Peony Bianchi, and Roland Ward – all noble-born “ascendants” entering the Amber Menhir to prove and hone their magical prowess, and to join its overarching mission to prevent a forthcoming apocalypse, known simply as “Calamity”.

On the surface, it is an honour to be invited to the Amber Menhir, which unites the most brilliant and powerful magicians and minds, as they work towards salvation from Calamity.

But beneath the surface, the six magical factions that comprise the Menhir – the Weavers of the Web, Architects of Forces, Sounders of Echoes, Evaders of Death, Delvers of the Mind, and Tilters of the Hourglass – are locked in an unending struggle for supremacy. Anyone caught in the crossfire, even an innocent student, risks annihilation.

As their tuition progresses, friends Tara, Peony, and Roland unwittingly throw themselves into the firing line through questioning the status quo. These unwise enquiries only become more pronounced, and inflammatory, when Peony displays an aptitude for more than one magical discipline, which dogma states to be an impossibility.

Peony’s disruptive abilities bring her to the attention of Primara Okondo, the charming leader of the Weavers of the Web, who wishes to claim Peony for their camp before she is wooed away by a rival faction.

With little choice, Peony finds herself a chess piece in a bigger political game, with the long-prevailing balance of power in jeopardy.

Roland, as loyal to his friends as a lap dog, is ready to defend Peony with his life, if necessary, while Tara struggles with the looming evidence that she may display no magical abilities of her own, which threatens to be another source of hers, and her associates’, undoing.

Dark fantasy author Jonathan N. Pruitt has delivered an instant classic of the genre with The Amber Menhir.
Dark fantasy author Jonathan N. Pruitt has delivered an instant classic of the genre with The Amber Menhir.

The Amber Menhir unfolds as a rollercoaster of ghoulish twists and turns winding around shadowed hallways, akin to Hogwarts, were it overrun by Voldermort’s most fervent Death Eaters.

And as with every spinechilling institution, there’s a secret underground section of the Amber Menhir where terrible, immoral experiments are taking place, with no few of them on former students.

Even from the novel’s beginning, following the new class of ascendants as they venture to the Menhir, the tension and peril is already firmly in place. The punishment meted out to an outspoken peasant unwise enough to criticise Menhir scholars, for instance, by accusing them of exploiting the public, includes a most gruesome dismemberment.

The sheer menace presented by the machinations within the Menhir invite parallels to House of Cards as well as the medieval-esque brutality of Game of Thrones.

And before we even get through the front door of the citadel, one unfortunate  student has been burned up by a magical forcefield meant to block unworthies from entry.

Throw in the forementioned murder, and the stirrings of rebellion against the prevailing order, and you’re already on the edge of your seat before the story’s even properly kicked in.

There’s never a dull moment as the pressure continues to ramp up to a stunning showdown finale, where the falling veils of mystery will need to be reclaimed for bandages and body bags.

Dark fantasy author Jonathan N. Pruitt has delivered an instant classic of the genre with The Amber Menhir.
Dark fantasy author Jonathan N. Pruitt has delivered an instant classic of the genre with The Amber Menhir.

Beneath the escapist entertainment lies a sharp satirical edge, making a subtle yet powerful statement about corruption, greed, and ego within revered institutions. There are, after all, no boundaries that Menhir scholars won’t transgress to get what they want, even stealing and manipulating minds, should it serve their ends.

Planned as the first of five novels under the collective banner of The Shadows of the Monolith , The Amber Menhir is, simply put, an incredible debut. As gripping as a python, it is enriched by Pruitt’s dazzling prose, painted in the most macabre of palettes. It’s an instant classic of the dark fantasy genre, yet at the same time refreshingly modern, with a diverse array of characters who defy traditional fantasy tropes.

We can’t wait for the next entry to the series. In the meantime, The Amber Menhir is utterly unmissable.

The Amber Menhir (Book One of The Shadows of the Monolith) by Jonathan N. Pruitt is out now on Amazon in paperback, hardcover, and eBook formats, published through Spinner Loom Press and priced £15.34, £28.58, and £9.99 respectively. For more information, visit The Shadows of the or follow the author on Instagram.


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