Hidden Warrior by Lynn Flewelling. ★★★1/2
I’ve finally gotten around to reading Hidden Warrior, the sequel to the coming of age fantasy novel, The Bone Doll’s Twin. In my review of the first book, I noted that I was reserving judgement on how well gender is handled until I’d read the second book. And wow am I judgmental about how Hidden Warrior handled the themes it set out to explore.
To recap, in The Bone Doll’s Twin a king has taken the throne from his sister, the rightful heir. A long ago prophecy says the country will never be defeated as long as a woman of the proper lineage sits on the throne. Since prophecies are serious business in fantasy novels, the king starts killing off all female relatives who could be a potential threat. When his sister gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl, a wizard takes matters into her own hands to preserve the girl, the “true heir,” by using dark magic to give her the shape of her brother. Oh, yes, this also involves the death of her brother.
A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows. ★★★★
A Tyranny of Queens is the sequel to the portal fantasy novel, An Accident of Stars, and I’m happy to report that I liked it even more than the first book! If queer feminist fantasy sounds at all your thing, I suggest you start reading this series. This is a series that should really be read in order – A Tyranny of Queens picks up almost directly from where An Accident of Stars left off. If you haven’t read the first book, I doubt you’d be able to make sense of this one. Forewarning, this review may contain spoilers for the first book.
Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss. ★★★1/2
Sunset Mantle is a solid work of high fantasy. What’s most fascinating about it is that for all it’s battles and political intrigue, it’s less than 200 pages long. That’s right ya’ll. This is a high fantasy novella.
Cete is a wandering solider for hire. He knows that Reach Antach is about to be on the losing side of a war and that the smart thing to do would be to move on… but somehow, he just can’t bring himself to do so. When he sees a beautifully embroidered mantle made by a blind craftswoman, he becomes inspired to stay and to risk everything for the town of Reach Antach.
Grudgebearer by J.F. Lewis. ★★
Grudgebearer is the start to an epic fantasy trilogy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to my tastes. If I weren’t reading it for review, I wouldn’t have finished.
Grudgebearer is set in a world with a wide array of species, some of whom are immortal. Kholster is the first of the immortal Aern, a wolf-like, carnivorous warrior species with no qualms about eating other sentient beings. They were created as slaves for the Eldrennai but gained freedom six hundred years ago. Every hundred years the peace between the Eldrennai and the Aern must be reforged at the Grand Conjunction. But an Eldrennai prince has moved the armor the Aern left hostage, and if he’s going to follow his oath, Kholster must destroy them all. And if he doesn’t follow his oath, then he will no longer be an Aern.
The Initiate Brother by Sean Russell. ★★★1/2
After a plague ravaged the Empire of Wa, there’s a new dynasty on the throne. And many who were once powerful are out of favor with the Emperor. Among these are the Botahist Monks, who have a unique control over their perception of time and their internal energy. They’ve been spiritual advisers to the court for a thousand years, but now their position is threatened. However, the Emperor views his greatest enemy of all as Lord Shonto, the powerful head of a great house and adopted father of Lady Nishima, the last surviving member of the old dynasty. The Emperor has hatched a plan to rid himself of Lord Shonto, but he didn’t count on Lord Shonto’s new spiritual adviser, the Brother Shuyun.
Sea of Sorrows by Michelle West. ★★★1/2
Sea of Sorrows is the fourth book in Michelle West’s Sun Sword series, and you absolutely need to start from the beginning. If you aren’t familiar with the series, it’s a traditional epic fantasy series with plenty of female characters and begins with The Broken Crown.
Like all other installments in the series, Sea of Sorrows is long, numbering some 800 odd pages. My experience with this series has been that the beginnings might feel like they’re dragging, but by the half way mark things speed up. Unfortunately that wasn’t my experience with Sea of Sorrows. There were large sections that I felt like I was slogging through.
The Mountain of Kept Memory by Rachel Neumeier. ★★★★
The Mountain of Kept Memory is a stand alone fantasy novel that reminded me of City of Stairs. The gods died long ago, but the Kieba has retained some of their power, which she’s used to protect the people of Carastind… until the king manages to anger her. With the kingdom on the edge of invasion, the prince and princess of Carastind are desperately trying to salvage their kingdom’s independence from the forces arrayed against them.