Black Wolves by Kate Elliott. ★★★★
Trigger Warning: Rape
This may be my favorite read yet from Kate Elliott, and I have the feeling that this trilogy will become one of my all time epic fantasy series. If non-Western epic fantasy with loads of ladies who do things sounds like something you’d like, then you need to read Black Wolves.
The first hundred pages of Black Wolves introduce many of the central characters, but everything then changes after a forty-four year time skip. King Anjihosh saved the Hundred from demons and conquered it in the process. The story starts with Kellas, a captain of the Black Wolves, the king’s elite unit of soldiers and spies. The king’s son, Atani, learns of a family secret and soon after disappears. Kellas is tasked with his retrieval. The first section ends soon after. In the time skip, Atani both became king and was murdered on one fateful night still shrouded in questions and mysteries. Now Atani’s son is king, and he fears that no one around him can be trusted. His aunt Dannarah enlists a now elderly Kellas to return to safeguard her nephew and his kingdom.
King’s Dragon by Kate Elliott. ★★★★
Trigger warning: abuse, sexual assault
King’s Dragon is the first book in a completed epic fantasy series by noted fantasist Kate Elliott.
King’s Dragon focuses on two young people in the Kingdom of Wendar, a fantasy nation that seems to be based on medieval Germany. On the large scale, Wendar is facing a civil war, with the current king’s sister raising an army to contest his rule and place herself on the throne. At the same time, the kingdom is under attack from raiders that seem like a cross between orcs and Vikings.
However, it takes a while for our protagonists to become involved in events of international importance. Both Alain and Liath have their own problems. For his entire life, Alain’s been promised to a monastery, although he yearns to see the world. Just when it is time for to enter a cloistered life, the monastery is destroyed by raiders and his life is saved by a goddess, the Lady of Battles, in return for dedicating his life to her. Meanwhile, Liath and her father have been traveling her entire life, running from something her father won’t explain to her. When her father dies, Liath is arrested for his debts and sold as a slave an abusive man.
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.