I read the first book in this series not that long ago and really loved it, so I’ve been looking forward to this sequel. What’s awesome is that it opens with a short summary of the last book that you can skip if you don’t it, but could be handy if it’s been a while.
Tali’s marriage was never a fairy tale story of a whirlwind romance, Tali wasn’t even sure if her husband loved her. He was having an affair with another warlords daughter, so in turn, she had her own affair, and consequently, the paternity of Tali’s child can’t be 100% determined. There’s a little flashback to those events and it was fascinating to watch Tali make one of her “biggest mistakes”, one she regrets for the rest of her life. Her husband now wants to kill her child, and she has to do anything and everything she can to stop him. He has formulated a plan to get a mage to determine whether or not her son is truly his, and he thinks it will be a more merciful death if he does it rather than the horrors his mother would inflict on the boy. Of course, Tali still thinks this is insane.
It doesn’t help that one of her only friends, Khine, is pissed off with her after overhearing an argument between herself and her husband. He’s casting shade at Agos, being standoff-ish and generally broody in the beginning. He has a lot of hang-ups about how many bodies Tali leaves in her wake, intentional or not. Tali continues to struggle with her reputation, her fathers reputation and how it makes people view her. She’s worn down from always being viewed as the Bitch Queen, she watches as other leaders pour blood into their streets, killing their own, meanwhile, she’s the one who’s “bloodthirsty”. Tali and crew also have to deal with Yuebek and Qun, two antagonists that are so easy to hate. So much hate for those guys. She also suffers from a betrayal which maybe she should have seen coming, but with few choices for friendships, she had little choice.
The writing in this was amazing and full of emotion, and with each book I can see the author honing their craft and it’s a joy to watch. Tali has been through a lot of bullshit and she’s made out to sound both battle-hardened but also fragile at the same time which is difficult complexity to pull off. I also really love the theme of motherhood in this, I really don’t get to read many books where a mother is the main character. Usually, moms in fantasy are dead, abusive, or about to be dead. Character development is one of the strengths in this book and I love it so much when I can throw myself 100% behind the main character. I loved getting to see more of her past, more of her inner workings, and try to overcome everything that’s been thrown at her.
This book has a LOT going on in it, sometimes there’s a lull in a second book in a series, but that definitely wasn’t the case here. There are a lot of flashbacks where we get to watch Tali go through some of her more painful and formative moments in her life, the death of her father, learning about her brother’s deaths… she’s dealt with a lot of death. Since this is a single POV book it’s extremely character driven, Tali is an amazingly complex character that I loved getting to know a bit better. I still hate Tali’s husband, I don’t know if he was supposed to be softened a bit in this, but man, fuck you Rayyel.
There are dragons in this! And blood magic! Although magic isn’t a huge part of this series so far, I felt that there was more of it in this one and that’s always a bonus for me. There are mages using villagers blood to create magical entities that use agan, this worlds magic, that can be controlled by the mages, effectively forming an army of sorts. There’s also a group known as “The Shadows” that pop up in this and try to give Tali some aid, although she’s rightfully suspicious, for a long time, the Shadows worked for her husbands family and were a big source of their power. So, does she trust this new group, or not?
Things aren’t quite wrapped up yet, there’s another book coming and I’ll absolutely be reading it when it comes out.
- Single pov
- Queen pov
- non western setting
- heavy world building
- magic monsters
- Plot: 13/15
- Characters: 14/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 13.5/15
- Pacing: 12/15
- Originality: 13.5/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 10/10
Final Score: 89/100 – 5 stars – highly recommended!