Author – Brian Naslund
Pages – 475
Format – Hardcover
This is a review of the second book in The Dragons of Terra series. As such by necessity there will be some spoilers for book one – Blood of an Exile.
They called her the Witch Queen…
Driven from her kingdom, the would-be queen now seeks haven in the land of her mother, but Ashlyn will not stop until justice has been done. Determined to unlock the secret of powers long thought impossible. Ashlyn bends her will and intellegence to mastering the one thing people always accused her of, sorcery.
Meanwhile, having learned the truth of his mutation, Bershad is a man on borrowed time. Never knowing when his healing powers will drive him to a self-destruction, he is determined to see Ashlyn restored to her throne and the creatures they both love safe.
Isn’t it brilliant when a book totally lives up to and perhaps even surpasses your expectations?!
I loved Blood of an Exile which I bought on a whim because, well, dragons. It ended up being one of my favourite books of the year. I did wonder whether book two would be able to keep me engaged as it would need to maintain the depth, pace and character relationships that made book one such a joy, whilst also introducing new elements. Brian Naslund really excelled at this and I now know I will buy anything he writes in future. I trust him to deliver after such a brilliant follow up. I must point out that I received this book as an ARC from Tor Books, for which I am extremely grateful – especially to Stephen Haskins, Jamie-Lee Nardone and of course Brian Naslund.
So why was this such a great follow up?
For a start, it really expanded on the continent of Terra and we got a lot more insight into the nations within, the history and background to some characters relationships with one another and the cultures involved. The most intriguing and relatable to me personally are the people of the Dainwood and we spend a lot of time with the Jaguar wardens that fight for their homeland, with a strong affinity to nature and preserving the natural world around them. Through them we are also introduced to a blossoming gay relationship with one of our characters from book one, that Naslund really makes you care about and feel invested in the love of the two people.
Indeed, Sorcery of a Queen is a tale of relationships; romance and friendship aswell as tenuous alliances and mistrust. All the characters are really fleshed out with motivations and desires – this is coming from someone who is usually very plot orientated. Maybe Brian Naslund has simply made me realise I am a character person afterall – it just takes me a couple of books of consistently excellent characterisation to get me on board.
Whilst characters are certainly a huge strength (Kira and Jolan were great to spend more time with, aswell as the trio that bounce off one another in Bershad, Ashe and Felgor) the book is such an exciting and fast paced read because of the plot. It can slow down but anytime it does it feels meaningful. There is no filler here. And the action steps up a notch and drags you along for the ride; before you know it you’ve read another hour when you were meant to only have 5 more minutes before bed.
There is admittedly a feeling that God’s Moss is used as a bit of a cheat code to get Bershad out of tricky spots. I think if this continued into book three indefinitely without any consequences, it would make some of the fight scenes begin to feel a little shallow. Naslund however builds on the gears set in motion earlier with the discovery of real repercussions to Bershad’s use of God’s Moss, which promises to be a major thread in the next novel.
Speaking of discovery, there are a lot of discoveries about Osyrus Ward and just what he’d been up to on that island. This actually introduces a lot more science fantasy elements which does take things a little further away from Blood of an Exile. I’d say aside from the dragons, to a certain extent the fantasy aspects felt supplementary to the politics of the plot, whereas here everything is turned up a couple of dials – the undead, skyship action and organ replacement anyone? Plenty of opportunities for a goatfuck – when things don’t go according to plan!
One thing that Sorcery of a Queen puts beyond all doubt is that this is a series for adults. If you prefer sex hinted at or full of euphemisms, this isn’t the book for you. If you’d rather not see many swear words. If you would rather not know about brutal deaths. If you don’t want to imagine people mutilated whilst alive and their body parts replaced. Then this is not the read you’re after. I however think it’s bloody awesome – jam packed full of adventure, action, an almost cartoonist brutality at times. I loved every second of it – I’m still in love with the dragons in the ecosystem dynamic that a lot of fantasy neglects to consider. Overall though I think I can safely say I love so many of the characters in this series that the characters have to stand out perhaps even above the outstanding action and gripping plot.
I’m just disappointed I have to wait so long for book three. Bravo and hats off to Brian Naslund for such a fantastic book!