Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Fantasy romance
Series: The Twelve Kingdoms #1
Length: 352 pages
Date Released: May 27, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
Queen Of The Unknown
The tales tell of three sisters, daughters of the high king. The eldest, a valiant warrior-woman, heir to the kingdom. The youngest, the sweet beauty with her Prince Charming. No one says much about the middle princess, Andromeda. Andi, the other one.
Andi doesn’t mind being invisible. She enjoys the company of her horse more than court, and she has a way of blending into the shadows. Until the day she meets a strange man riding, who keeps company with wolves and ravens, who rules a land of shapeshifters and demons. A country she’d thought was no more than legend–until he claims her as its queen.
In a moment everything changes: Her father, the wise king, becomes a warlord, suspicious and strategic. Whispers call her dead mother a traitor and a witch. Andi doesn’t know if her own instincts can be trusted, as visions appear to her and her body begins to rebel.
For Andi, the time to learn her true nature has come. . .
I watched Maleficent while I was in the middle of reading The Mark of the Tala, and was amazed at how well the two stories resonated together.
It’s not that Princess Andromeda is anything like Princess Aurora in the movie. It’s much more that King Stefan in the movie is all too much like King Uorsin in the book.
So much of the action, including a war and a whole lot of death on both sides, occurs because both of the Kings disavowed their own words and behavior; and because they enviously want to possess something that cannot ever be theirs.
Maleficent’s fairy kingdom bears a startling physical resemblance to the land of the Tala as well.
Back to the book. King Uorsin has three daughters, Ursula, Andromeda and Amelia. Ursula is his heir and his warleader. She is his right hand in all things. If the name Uorsin sounds like bear, well, Ursula means little bear. And so she is.
At first I thought that the name Amelia meant the same as Amanda, “worthy of being loved” which the youngest Princess certainly seems to be in this first book. However, wikipedia tells me that Amelia means either “hardworking” or “rival” which look like they will fit for Amelia’s appearances later in the series.
But Princess Andromeda is named for a constellation in the Autumn night sky, and the story behind it is the myth of a woman chained to a rock for sacrifice to a beast. Which pretty much summarizes the way that her father’s people see her fate.
Of course, just like in Maleficent, the story people are told is not the truth. It is certainly not Andromeda’s truth.
Because Uorsin made a deal with the people of the Tala long ago. He took their Princess Salena as his wife, and in return they promised to help him win his kingdom. He promised that the children of this marriage, and Salena herself, would be allowed to return to the Tala when the children were old enough.
Instead, he imprisoned his queen and prohibited anyone in the court from ever speaking of the Tala. He demonized them. It was easy, because the Tala were not only secretive, they were also shapeshifters.
Now the Tala have returned to claim at least one of the Princesses. King Rayfe of the Tala needs the power that he can gain from returning the rightful queen to her kingdom. But he doesn’t know until they finally meet that Andromeda is not just the queen his kingdom needs, but that she is the queen that he needs.
It’s a tragedy that so many have to die in Uorsin’s unjust war to keep his daughter from her destiny, and from the man she comes to love. A man she comes to trust much more than the father who rejected her at every turn for being the rightful Queen of the Tala.
Escape Rating A: The more I think about this book, the more fascinating things I see. This is epic fantasy in a somewhat traditional mode, and yet it turns so many of the conventions on their heads.
The three princesses are not waiting to be married off to handsome princes. Ursula doesn’t look like she’ll marry at all. Andromeda has been invisible most of her life and wants to be free to do what she wants. Only Amelia was looking for the traditional fairy tale wedding, and she got it. (What happens later, is, well, later. Also a spoiler)
I said at the beginning this reminded me of Maleficent. Maleficent turns out not to be the evil villain, King Stefan is really the evil villain. Also mad as a hatter in the end. King Uorsin is a Stefan. He wants to be king of the Twelve Kingdoms, and to do that he needs a lot of help, because at the beginning there is no realm of the Twelve Kingdoms, just twelve independent kingdoms. He gets magical help from the Tala, but is a selfish bastard and won’t abide by the treaty he signed. Instead, he wages a steady war against the Tala, both with troops and with propaganda.
The three princess don’t even know that their mother was Tala. They certainly don’t know that dad probably killed mom. He cut them off from half of their heritage in order to force the military confrontation that fills this book.
Andromeda is willing to sacrifice herself to save her people. In fact, to save both her peoples. But the war and its devastation is all about Uorsin’s unwillingness to give up something that he thinks belongs to him, and his desire to conquer the Tala at all costs. He doesn’t care who or what he sacrifices, and his people pay the price.
In addition to the story of oathbreaking and retribution on a grand scale, we also have the marvelous story of a young woman discovering her true nature and coming into her power. It reminds me a bit of Queen of the Tearling or Third Daughter, both stories of forgotten princesses who turn out to be much stronger than anyone bargained for.
If you like your epic fantasy with a touch of romance, The Mark of the Tala is an awesome beginning to what looks like a great series. The Tears of the Rose is next, and I can hardly wait to see what happens!!!