Book Description

All roads lead to war.

Nonbinary Ruarnon is determined to prove their worth as heir to Tarlah’s perfect King. But when their parents are abducted, Ruarnon must rule Tarlah in the face of unreliable allies, a brutal expansionist neighbour, and binary male warriors who doubt the lead of a bookish enby youth.

Neighbouring King Kyura faces opposition, as peace-loving ruler of warmongering subjects who dream of expanding their empire. Ruarnon is vulnerable in the absence of their allies, but when Kyura rejects calls to conquer Tarlah once and for all, assassins threaten his family and mutiny threatens his reign.

Trapped in Ruarnon’s world, Linh is desperate to return to her family in Australia, and isn’t above using her host’s belief that she’s a figure from local myth to achieve it. But her gateway home lies on the far side of a brewing war, and her only transport is Ruarnon’s absent allies, sailing to Tarlah’s aid.

A new breed of creature threatens them all: a plague of monsters sailing towards Kyura and Ruarnon’s lands. Linh’s monster observations could save Kyura and Ruarnon’s people, ending the war between them, and clearing Linh’s homeward path. But the price is dear; Linh must risk her life aiding Ruarnon. And to secure peace with Kyura’s unruly subjects, Ruarnon’s ultimate test as heir risks betrayal and Tarlah’s bloody defeat.

Of Interest

Manipulator’s War features a diverse cast, including a nonbinary and two aromantic, asexual protagonists with other queer and some neurodiverse representation. Its action-packed and fast-paced, with a complex plot appealing to young adult and adult readers alike.

Manipulator’s War also stars four Australian teenagers, Linh being a Vietnamese Aussie and Michael Aboriginal. The novel begins in a fictional location on the coast of Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay.

The author, Elise Carlson is a nonbinary, asexual, aromantic Aussie whose ADHD assists them to live life at a similar pace to their characters.

Series Info

Manipulator’s War is book one of the Ruarnon Trilogy. Book 2; Secrets of the Sorcery War, was released in April 2023. Book 3; Lands of the Clouded Sky will be out in 2024. For what inspired the world-building and characters, see this blog post.

What Readers Are Saying

“…a fast paced, engaging story that was hard to put down.”

“…the representation of Ruarnon as nonbinary was amazing.”

“…took me on an emotional roller coaster with every twist and turn.”

“…captivating, immersive and thrilling. I loved the echoes to other great fantasy reads.”

Short Author Bio

Elise Carlson (they/them) is an Aussie YA Fantasy author writing fantastical adventures in between real-world exploration and educating energetic, enthusiastic minds as excited about life as they are -children. Elise has lived in, taught in and explored their native Australia, England and New Zealand. Inspired by studies of the ancient Mediterranean world and their real-life adventures throughout Europe, America, Canada and South-East Asia, Elise enjoys writing adventures and coming of age stories for like minds -the young and young at heart.

Long author bio.