Book: “The Queen of Raiders” by Sarah Kozloff
Publishing Info: Tor Books, February 2020
Where Did I Get this Book: from the publisher!
Book Description: The soliders of Oromondo have invaded the Free States, leaving a wake of misery and death. Thalen, a young scholar, survives and gathers a small cadre of guerilla fighters for a one-way mission into the heart of an enemy land.
Unconsciously guided by the elemental Spirits of Ennea Mon, Cerulia is drawn to the Land of the Fire Mountains to join Thelan’s Raiders, where she will learn the price of war.
Previously Reviewed: “A Queen in Hiding”
Review: It’s really fun being able to review an entire series like this, one book a month for four months to the series’ conclusion. It makes the whole process so much less painfully unsure. I can read this book, confident that any questions I still have or tension points that are left hanging will be followed up on in only 30 short days! (Well, less, because the publisher was kind enough to send ARCs.) But! Even the public has a very short wait between books, and for a fantasy series that started off as well as this one did, that’s something, indeed!
Cerulia, or Wren as we now know her, is still a queen without a home. Her quest back to her throne is by no means clear, but she is determined to find her way. In many ways, she is still learning the ins and outs of her Talent and is still coming to know her own strengths and weakness as a leader. In this book, her story converges with that of Thalen and his raiders who continue to work towards their own political goals.
This is definitely a complicated political fantasy novel. I’m in the midst of reading another book like this right now. It, too, is the second book in a series. But unlike this one, the first book came out a year ago. It took me quite a while to re-orient myself to the various players, the known (and unknown) alliances, the character motivations, etc. All this on top of the secrets and reveals that were still coming out in the book. It was a lot. This is one of the biggest strengths of releasing a series like this one after another. It’s a decision that may work better or worse for various types of books, but I think Tor picked the best option right of the gate choosing this series to release this way. All of these intricate moving pieces are a lot to keep in mind, but having the books come out one right after another allowed me to jump right into this book with very little adjustment needed.
We get most of the same POV characters that we had before, but between keeping up with Cerulia and Thalen, we also see behind enemy lines into the maneuverings of Lord Matwyck who is currently serving as Lord Regent. Through his son’s eyes, we see the corruption at the heart of Matwyck regime and the priority he places on his own power above that of the country he is meant to care for. I still continue to enjoy Thalen and Cerulia/Wren/Kestrel’s journey. It was fun trying to anticipate how their choices and actions would affect other aspects of the story, and it was great watching some storylines begin to converge (always a point of excitement for books with large ensemble casts like this).
I liked the detailed look into the effects of warfare on an entire region, not only the country first immediately targeted by an army itself. The book explores how war is a long-term disaster, one that doesn’t wrap up neatly or quickly, but instead spreads out with ripple effects touching far and wide. We also look into what rebellion looks like, both on the macro and micro level, from the organized actions of a group of raiders to the personal choices of those with varying levels of influence and power.
My one criticism of the book is one that I had in the first book, as well, and it has carried over here, too. For me, there is something a bit stilted about the writing style of the story. I think part of this is simply word choice and sentence construction. She has a very frank, and to the point, way of writing. But while this leaves a lot of room for detail, it also makes it hard to become emotionally invested in what is going on. The other part comes down to editing: a good editor could potentially identify parts of the story that could be trimmed down, giving the pacing a boost that I think it could use at times.
Overall, I continue to enjoy this series and am excited to get started on the third book in the series! I’ll have a giveaway for that title and my review coming out in March! In the mean time, don’t forget to enter the current giveaway to win a paperback copy of “The Queen of Raiders!”
Rating 7: The short wait time definitely plays in this series’ favor as the author only presses down harder on the complicated-political-fantasy gas pedal in this second novel.
“The Queen of Raiders” is a new book, so it isn’t on many Goodreads lists, but it is on “Upcoming 2020 SFF with female leads or co-leads.”
Find “The Queen of Raiders” at your library using WorldCat!