Review: Madness in Solidar by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

madness in solidar by le modesittFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: fantasy, epic fantasy
Series: Imager Portfolio #9
Length: 464 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: March 3, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Four centuries after its founding, Solidar’s Collegium of Imagers is in decline, the exploits of its founder, the legendary Quaeryt, largely forgotten. The Collegium is so lacking in leadership that the dying Maitre must summon Alastar, an obscure but talented senior imager from Westisle far to the south who has little knowledge of politics in the capital, as his successor. When Alastar arrives in L’Excelsis and becomes the new Maitre, he finds disarray and lack of discipline within the Collegium, and the ruler of Solidar so hated by the High Holders that they openly refer to him as being mad.

To make matters worse, neither Rex Ryen, ridiculed as Rex Dafou, nor the High Holders have any respect for the Collegium, and Alastar finds himself in the middle of a power struggle, with Ryen demanding that the Collegium remove the strongest High Holders and the military leadership in turn plotting to topple Ryen and destroy the Collegium. At the same time, Ryen is demanding the High Holders pay a massive increase in taxes while he initiates a grandiose building project. And all that, Alastar discovers, is only a fraction of the problems he and the Collegium face.

My Review:

imager by le modesitt jrI have adored this series (The Imager Portfolio) since a friend shoved the first book, Imager, at me six years ago. The Imager Portfolio is a marvelous epic fantasy series with a couple of interesting twists. First, the heroes of the now three separate subseries solve their problems with a lot more brain than brawn. Second, although each series centers around a character who is coming into their own in one way or another, they are not traditional coming-of-age stories. In all three series, the main character is an adult (albeit a relatively young one in Imager) and knows who they are and what they plan to do with their lives. In each series, we see them grow and change when some or all of what they planned is turned upside-down. Or at least turned sideways.

Rex Regis by L E Modesitt JrMadness in Solidar takes place at the historical mid-point between the events at the end of Rex Regis (reviewed here) and the beginning of Imager. In the story, the accomplishments of Quaryt in Rex Regis have taken on the patina of legend; all the members of the Imager Collegium know that Quaryt was their founder, but his specific accomplishments have faded into the misty past, as he intended.

Alastar, the new Maitre of the Collegium, finds that he needs to re-discover the techniques that made Quaryt into a legend, because the Collegium that Alastar has just taken over is a complete mess. While the situation for Imagers in Solidar are not quite as desperate as they were in Quaryt’s time, they are heading down that hill at speed. If Alastar can’t find a way to make the Collegium and its Imagers at least highly respected again, and soon, the days when Imagers are persecuted (and executed) are not far behind.

The Collegium is a total SNAFU. His predecessor as maitre was too sick, and possibly also too lazy and too conciliatory, to see that it was necessary for the imagers to be strong, respected and useful in order for them to maintain their place in Solidar politics. Especially since part of their charter was to use their power to maintain the balance between the Rex, the High Holders and the merchant Factors. Shy and retiring just doesn’t work when you are the fulcrum and everyone else thinks they have a lever.

Alastar represents change. He believes that the imagers have to be strong in order to survive, and he’s been left with a position of extreme weakness. Additionally, he is completely unknown, and relatively unknowing, of politics in the capital. He’s been at Westisle, where the position has not been so dire. Now he has to swim with the political sharks in order to keep the Collegium afloat.

Scholar by L. E. Modesitt Jr.It does not help his situation that the current Rex is not exactly the most capable man to hold the throne since the days of Rex Bhayar and the unification of Solidar, as seen in Scholar, Princeps, Imager’s Battalion, Antiagon Fire and Rex Regis. The question is whether the current Rex is simply insane, or just monumentally uncaring of the effects his edicts have on his people. The High Holders, the Factors and even the military are all itching to stage a coup.

Only Alastar and the Collegium can ensure an orderly change of leadership. And only if Alastar can bring his Imagers back to the level of fear, or respect, that they held in Quaryt’s time.

Or if he can bluff really, really well.

Escape Rating A: I grab this series the minute it comes up on Edelweiss, usually months ahead of publication. Then I can’t wait to read them and have a review ready 6 months before I can publish it.

Also starting my countdown until the next book in the series.

Alastar as a main character was an interesting choice, on the one hand, he has a lot of crap to clear up, and making big changes makes for great stories. On that other hand, Alastar is in his late 30’s, making him a rather mature hero to be coming into his own power.

He’s also very much a fish out of water, as all of his experience has been off in remote Westisle, and he finds himself dropped into the middle of a huge political crap-pile. He has to straighten out the problems within the Collegium at the same time he is hoping he can get the whole country back on track. Inside the Collegium he can display his power openly, but the Imagers have not and cannot rule the country. He has to maneuver his way into being the power behind the throne, but first he has to rearrange things so that a reasonable person is sitting on that throne, without showing too much of his hand.

He’s stuck very much in the middle, or muddle, and being attacked on all sides. Not just academic attacks within the Collegium, but actual ordinance attacks as some of the more unscrupulous nobles attempt to use his predecessor’s weakness and the current Rex’ insanity as a way of removing both the throne and the College in one fell swoop.

Alastar makes both good allies and bad enemies to save the Imagers. The size of the backlash he will have to deal with in the next book will show just how much he succeeded.

I can’t wait.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Mark of the Tala by Jeffe Kennedy

mark of the tala by jeffe kennedyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Fantasy romance
Series: The Twelve Kingdoms #1
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Kensington
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. . .

My Review:

maleficent post from imdbI 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.

tears of the rose by jeffe kennedyIf 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!!!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Blades of the Old Empire by Anna Kashina

blades of the old empire by anna kashinaFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: fantasy
Series: Majat Code, #1
Length: 496 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot
Date Released: February 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Kara is a mercenary – a Diamond warrior, the best of the best, part of the Majat Guild. When her tenure to Prince Kythar comes to an end, he wishes to retain her services, but must accompany her back to her Guild to negotiate her continued protection.

When they arrive they discover that the prince’s sworn enemy, the Kaddim, have already paid the Guild to engage her services – to capture and hand over the prince (who she has grown very fond of).

A warrior brought up to respect both duty and honour, what happens when her sworn duty proves dishonourable?

My Review:

Blades of the Old Empire is the start of a damn fine epic fantasy series. It reminds me a bit of what has come before (more on that later) but it certainly hits the ground running.

Seeing a title like “Blades of the Old Empire” makes the reader think that old heroes, or possibly heroes of old or heroes like in the old tales, are going to come and rescue the empire. Or maybe the emperor. Throw that set of assumptions out the window.

In this case, those blades from that old empire are evil reincarnated warriors and their old empire was a horrifying tyranny. Everyone thinks that the remnants of those sorcerers are long dead, but as they good guys discover in this first book in the series, they are wrong. Dead wrong.

The Kaddim Brotherhood is back, and they are more evil than ever. Also much better at infiltrating the good guys’ strongholds and institutions.

The action splits between two centers in this story, Good King Evan and his heir, Kyth. (One of the great things about this series so far is that the king doesn’t have to die for his heir to come into his powers.)

King Evan is off to gain followers for his movement to strike down the laws against magic that would keep Kyth from inheriting the throne. Kyth goes on his own separate quest to gain followers among the Forest Dwellers, including their powerful foreseer and the powerful and ancient Lady of the Forest.

Evan gets captured, and Kyth spends most of the book on the run. But they both find themselves head to head with the evil Kaddim, as the forces of darkness begin to expose their long campaign to re-take the empire that once was theirs.

In the middle of all the plots and counterplots are the Majat, the assassins’ guild for which the series is named.

The Majat as a group are expensively mercenary, fearsomely well-trained, and supposed to be completely uninvolved with politics. The guild accepts any contract that pays. The Kaddim exploit that famous neutrality to grievous results.

They turn the only force capable of stopping them in upon itself, as the best assassins are forced into contracts against each other, supposedly in order to protect the reputation of the guild.

Instead, they begin to rebel, which only feeds into the plans of evil. Even as they figure out why they are sent, the manipulation of events continues at higher and higher levels.

Only Kyth is capable of resisting the evil magic. So the sorcerers use the Majat to compromise his heart instead.

guild of assassins by anna kashinaEscape Rating A-: True confession, I was supposed to read Blades of the Old Empire in time to do a joint review with E over at The Book Pushers, and couldn’t quite squeeze it in. Today, we’re reviewing the second book in The Majat Code, The Guild of Assassins, so I had to finish the first book first. And it was pretty damn awesome.

The story has a sense that readers have been dropped into the middle; some events are possible only because of things that have happened to the characters in a time before the story begins. It gave me the feeling that there must be another book before this one, but if there is, I can’t find it.

Still the story of Kyth’s first meeting with the Forest People would make an interesting story, based on the hints we get.

While this isn’t a quest story, it is definitely the tale of a young man and his friends coming into their powers and their adulthood. Kyth’s companions, Alder and Ellah, clearly have important parts to play in putting things right.

Something about Kyth and the way that his story is set up reminded me of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera. Kyth made me think of Tavi, in the way that his magic is unknown and suppressed and coming out to save the situation.

That the church has suppressed magic and now has to reap the consequences had many echoes for me. In Katherine Kurtz’ Deryni series, and in Jean Johnson’s recent The Guild (reviewed at The Book Pushers). Attempting to remove all the magic users from the population as a means for the church keeping control was bound to have nasty results in the end. I think that point is going to get made over and over. (Insert your own possibly modern-day political parables here)

The manipulation of the assassins’ guild and simply the use of assassins as main characters also struck me as reminiscent of Amy Raby’s Assassin’s Gambit (reviewed here) and Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge (first book reviewed here) series. Since these are all stories that I loved, from my perspective they are all excellent antecedents.

As Blades of the Old Empire concludes, the kingdom is still very much in crisis. There are both political and magical ramifications to every act. It also sets the stage for the main focus to switch from the royal party to the assassins Kara and Mai and their defiance of the corruption in the guild.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Post by Mark T Barnes on Creating Myths + Giveaway

pillars of sand by mark t barnesThis time, I’m just going to gush. I get some good books from Library Journal, and some not so good books from Library Journal. And every once in a while, I get one that absolutely blows me away. That was The Garden of Stones by Mark T. Barnes. I adore epic fantasy, and Garden was one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

I begged 47North for a review copy of book 2, The Obsidian Heart, because I couldn’t bear not knowing where the story went after the towering cliffhanger I was left with. It was every bit as awesome as Garden, and now we have The Pillars of Sand. Read today’s review to see just how much I loved it.

Making Your Own Mythology, by Mark T. Barnes.

Myths are ancient stories shared through generations, both within and across cultures. While history relates the facts of the past, myths reveal the truths of personalities, beliefs, hopes, and fears of times gone by. Myths help us understand why we are who we are, in the context of our journey through history and cultural transformation.

Fantasy worlds in particular benefit from a strong and original mythology as part of the world building process. Not only do they add depth and texture to a story, they provide a framework for the reader to know why things are the way they are. It’s important for our characters to reflect in some way the thinking of their age, which has been formed from cultural mores and social interactions over hundreds of preceding generations.

It’s important to find the obvious in our mythologies and do something different with them. Readers may know the content of many myths, morality tales and fairy tales already, so reward them with something new. Find the anchor points a reader will care about, and identify with, and build a mythology around them. Look at the important concepts of our own culture: how we view birth, life, and death. Love and hatred, romance and vengeance. What do we fear? What do we despise, and why do these things have such a visceral effect on us? Look at topical issues that are important to us today, and weave those into a mythology to make it meaningful and impactful.

Mythology in fantasy literature can also have us think about our own origins as well as the stories we’re leaving behind for generations to come. The myths we make will inform others what we valued, what we feared, and helps them learn the truths of who we were and the mark we left a changing world.

The world of Īa in the Echoes of Empire series has a layered history. All the great world events lend to myths, and how those myths are remembered and used. In the EoE series I tried a few new things:

  • No orthodox religion or deities of any kind. The native inhabitants of Īa practice a form of natural reverence. With the introduction of humans who came from a technologically advanced society with less of a focus on religion, there came the concept of Ancestor worship. As people we have strong feelings towards the people in our lives, and time and new circumstances altered how the dead are perceived.
  • No heaven or hell. There’s no great reward for being ‘good’, nor damnation for being ‘bad’. Such reference points are meaningless when a person is capable of thought, free will, and change. The dead go to a place called The Well of Souls where they continue to be the people they were in life, sans a body. Knowledge of the Well of Souls and the ability to communicate with the dead has taken some of the fear from death.
  • The world is alive and conscious. There have been many empires and civilisations resting one atop the other like sediment. In the distant past the high water mark of a dead civilisation managed to communicate with the mind of the world, changing forever their view of their place and status. Technological industrialisation was bypassed in favour of arcane industrialisation, where energy sources were renewable gifts from the world itself. Humans changed this paradigm, and their defeat in the old wars became a parable for how civilisation should work with a world that knows what’s being done to it.
  • Power perceived is power achieved. The Insurrection and The Scholar Wars showed the world that the arcane sciences are devastating and that not all who hold power, should. Centuries after The Scholar Wars there are still prejudices and laws in place against some uses for the arcane.
  • Tales of ethics and morality. The wars of the past and the blood that was shed has led to the Avān, one of the world’s predominant cultures, forming a rigorous code of conduct and caste system in order to protect themselves, from themselves. Other cultures have beliefs based on great acts of invention, or heroism, or generosity. The greatest heroes in the EoE world are scholars, philosophers, courtesans, etc. Generally people who have tried to make the world better through less destructive means than war.
  • The lessons of war and envy. Though the humans were defeated in the old wars, the Elemental Masters of the time took notice. Indeed it was the introduction of advanced technology that inspired some of the Elemental Masters to try new things with the arcane, and to start truly bridging the gap between arcane science and technical science. This also introduced the concept of Wars of the Long Knife (Wars of Assassins), trial by single combat or arcane power to resolve disputes, government sanctioned and arbitrated House wars, etc.

Seeding the histories of our fantasy worlds with pivotal moments and people, and having those nexus points reflected throughout the years to follow, gives our worlds depth and texture. Whenever I pick up a fantasy novel I look forward to seeing where the writer is taking me, and how well their characters and story are in touch with their myths, legends, and origins.

mark t barnesMark Barnes lives in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of the epic fantasy Echoes of Empire series, published by 47North. The series includes The Garden of Stones (released May 2013), and The Obsidian Heart (released October 2013). The Pillars of Sand is the third of the series, due for release in May 2014. In April 2014, The Garden of Stones was selected as one of five finalists in the 2013/2014 David Gemmell MORNINGSTAR Award for Best Newcomer/Debut, with the winner to be announced in London in June 2014.
You can find out more at, his Facebook page at, or follow Mark on Twitter @MarkTBarnes.


Mark and his publisher, 47North, are generously giving away 5 NetGalley copies of each book in The Echoes of Empire trilogy! If you love epic fantasy, this is your chance to start (or complete) the series.
Because the copies are NetGalley downloads, winners will need to join or be members of NetGalley (which is free).
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: The Pillars of Sand by Mark T Barnes

pillars of sand by mark t barnesFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audioboook
Genre: epic fantasy
Series: Echoes of Empire #3
Length: 488 pages
Publisher: 47North
Date Released: May 20, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

The epic conclusion of the Echoes of Empire trilogy.

Prophecy declared that corrupt politician Corajidin would rule the Shrīanese Federation, even become its new Emperor?and sinister magic has helped him defy death in order to do it. But his victory is not assured, thanks to clashing rival factions that hinder any attempts to unify the nation. Though he has taken increasingly brutal measures to eliminate all obstacles in his path, the dark forces supporting him grow dangerously impatient. And the harder they press, the more drastic Corajidin’s actions become.

Soon, only his most powerful adversaries will stand in his way: Indris, the peerless swordsman and sorcerer who has long fought to end the Federation’s bloody turmoil; and the warrior-poet Mari, Corajidin’s own daughter and the woman Indris loves. Fate has torn them apart, forcing them into terrifying personal trials. But if Indris can bring to bear the devastating knowledge of the Pillars of Sand, and Mari can rise up as a rebel leader, Corajidin’s enemies will rally?and the decisive battle for the soul and future of the Shrīanese will begin.

This epic tale of intrigue, love, and betrayal, painted in the blood of allies and enemies by Mark T. Barnes, concludes the Echo of Empire trilogy that began with “The Garden of Stones” and “The Obsidian Heart.”

My Review:

The Pillars of Sand is an absolute stunner from beginning to end. Even the opening synopsis that recaps the events of the previous two books reads like an awesome story being told around a campfire, reciting the tales of the legends that have gone before.

Garden of Stones by Mark T BarnesBut don’t rely on that summary if you haven’t read the first two books in the Echoes of Empire series, get yourself a copy of the utterly fantastic first book, The Garden of Stones and then continue breathlessly through the heroes’ valley of the shadow in The Obsidian Heart. You’ll be panting to read The Pillars of Sand just to find out how our heroes, their country, and their world get out of the horrible fix that they are in.

The story is again told from three different points of view, Dragon-Eyed Indris, for whom every faction seems to have a different destiny, none of which he remotely desires; his lover Mariam of the House of Erebus, one of the greatest warrior-poets that Shrian has ever produced, and her father Corajidin, the man who would lead Shrian to horrific greatness at incalculable cost.

Corajidin’s story is much like Macbeth’s; he believes that he has a destiny to rule Shrian, so he brings that destiny about no matter what dark powers he needs to consort with or how deep the madness into which he must descend. He never seems to understand that destiny is a two-edged sword, and that the prophecy he follows also predicts that he will not be able to hold onto anything, or anyone he conquers.

In our terms, he has sold his soul to the devil, but it turns out that he is dealing with beings even more fell than our version of Satan.

Mariam is Corajidin’s daughter, but she was raised to have her own mind and her own purpose. She believes in the ethics and morals that founded Shrian, and not the depths to which her father would sink them. And so she becomes a force for good, or at least better.

Indris is the great puzzle. He has acquired so much power, but he fears, with good reason, to use it. He knows that if he lets what is inside him loose, the power will use him. And so will entirely too many people who have been hiding the truth from him for far too long.

But they were right, some truths are too unbelievable to know. And yet, they must be revealed in order to save what can be saved. However little that might be.

The Obsidian Heart by Mark T. BarnesEscape Rating A+: Mark Barnes did it again. I stood at the bus stop with my mouth gaping open, completely overwhelmed by the ending. Also terribly, terribly sad that I will not get to return to Shrian.

I expected a slightly different ending. I’m much happier with the one I got, but I was expecting something darker. Not that the butcher’s bill in the end wasn’t high, but it wasn’t outrageously high. Sadly, just enough and not too much.

One of the things that fascinates about the story and it’s entire construction; The Echoes of Empire, as a whole, is about the evil that men (and women) do to each other. It is a battle between good and evil, but all the players are some variation of people, not deities or demons. (In some cases they may be dead people, but still people).

Humans and their equivalents do not need any help in finding the path to damnation and destruction. We’re quite good at getting there all on our own.

The Pillars of Sand brings the Echoes of Empire to a beautiful, and shattering conclusion. If you love epic fantasy and have not started this series, I envy you the joy of discovering this marvelous series for the first time.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

queen of the tearling by erika johansenFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genre: fantasy, dystopian
Series: Queen of the Tearling #1
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Harper
Date Released: July 8, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.

My Review:

I don’t often carry books with me when I go out to dinner, but this is one I just couldn’t put down, all 450 pages worth. It also helped that I just saw The Hunger Games movie, so I got where the references were coming from, even though I only saw a teensy bit of resemblance.

The Queen of the Tearling is in the absolutely classic fantasy mold of young person discovers/inherits their throne and powers, and then must figure out a way to be a good ruler with not much training and nearly every hand against them.

It’s a damn good formula when it works, and in The Queen of the Tearling, it definitely worked.

Kelsea Raleigh has been raised in obscurity, not to say anonymity, out in the woods. She wasn’t quite raised by wolves, but rather by an ex-guard and a teacher. Although they’ve prepared her as well as they could, they were forbidden from teaching Kelsea anything about recent history, such as the reign of her late mother Queen Elyssa, and anything that has happened under her uncle’s regency while she was in hiding.

Carlin and Barty hid one hell of a lot of crap. Kelsea’s kingdom, the Tear, exists under the yoke of the Red Queen of Mortmesne, the country next door. And there are lots of people in the nobility who want things to stay just the way they are, because they make money and/or get privilege from the current nasty state of affairs.

Kelsea’s uncle the regent is one of those people. He wants Kelsea dead before she reaches her throne.

How bad are things? The late and not terribly lamented signed a treaty with Mortmesne granting them a title of 3000 slaves every year. There is a lot of money in that slave trade on both sides of the border.

Kelsea, after a life-threatening heart-pounding journey from her cottage to the capitol to take up her throne, disbands the slave-tithe immediately upon arrival and in a flourish of fire. From that moment on, anyone who had any involvement is out to kill her, and the Red Queen mobilizes her army.

Kelsea, mobilizes her people’s hearts and minds, an infinitely stronger force.

Escape Rating A+: The description doesn’t do this one justice. It is simply awesome, and sticks with you long after you’re done.

Kelsea is a fish-out-of-water type of heroine. It’s not that she hasn’t been educated, because she certainly has, but her knowledge is book learning rather than experience, and it can be hard to translate one to another, especially if you’re only 19 and have been isolated all of your life.

The Tear Kingdom is an absolute mess. It seems like all the officials are corrupt, and the people have given up hope of things ever getting better. There’s a saying that “the fish rots from the head down” and in Tear, the Regent couldn’t be any rottener. Elyssa was just weak and stupid, but the Regent is weak, venal, stupid and bought and paid for by the Red Queen.

The contrast between the extreme poverty of the population, and the bizarre excesses of the nobility is one of the places where the descriptions of the Hunger Games universe apply. (Of course, this could also be said for pre-revolutionary France, including the extreme hairstyles).

The tribute of slaves is also a similar point, but it is different in Queen of the Tearling. Not just because thousands of slaves are taken as war repayments, but because the slave tribute is designed to take from every age group, including children and babies. Also because the fate of the slaves is completely shrouded.

Kelsea is the point of view character, and the one that the reader needs to sympathize with if they’re going to enjoy the story. This is Kelsea’s journey from obscurity to living in a fishbowl, from childhood to adulthood, from innocence to knowledge. She makes mistakes along the way, but her heart is always in the right place. She wants to do the right thing, and not just in a fairy tale way. She knows that some things are just too far to be allowed, but that there can be mercy.

She’s conflicted because she recognizes that the right thing can have dire consequences, and still must be done anyway. She’s learning.

The book ends on an upnote, but one that clearly marks the beginning of the conflict between Kelsea and the Red Queen. I want the next book. I want to see how the war goes, with all the starting handicaps faced by the Tearling.

I also want to see more about how this world came about. It is definitely a future version of our world, but it is on Earth. It’s a new continent that rose up out of the sea. But how and when, and why did everyone leave Old America and Old Europe?

Last, there is an enigma character. At first the Fetch seems like a version of Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and living as an exile until the True Monarch arises. But from hints at the end, he is something far older, and possibly not completely human.

This story must continue!

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Stacking the Shelves (79)

Stacking the Shelves

There’s another StoryBundle available, and this time it’s a “Truly Epic Fantasy Bundle”. It says so right there on the label. I got it for the Rusch and Gaiman books, but it looks like an awesome combination of stories all around.

I can never resist a good epic fantasy, or even the promise of one–so they had me at “Truly Epic”. But seriously, if you love reading genre, get on StoryBundle’s mailing list. They put together some fantastic batches of books, not just fantasy, but they’ve done romance, horror, thrillers, science fiction and even an entire Doctor Who bundle.

For Review:
Dialogues of a Crime by John K. Manos
Duke City Split by Max Austin
The Guild (Guardians of Destiny #3) by Jean Johnson
Hard Time by Cara McKenna
Kindling the Moon (Arcadia Bell #1) by Jenn Bennett
The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran
Loving Rose (Casebook of Barnaby Adair #3) by Stephanie Laurens
The Mirror (Northwest Passage #5) by John A. Heldt
Seth (Cyborgs: More than Machines #5) by Eve Langlais
Silver Skin (Cold Iron #2) by D.L. McDermott
Summoning the Night (Arcadia Bell #2) by Jenn Bennett
Tease (Ivy Chronicles #2) by Sophie Jordan
Twisted Miracles (Shadowminds #1) by AJ Larrieu

Purchased from Storybundle:
Bloodletting (Affinities Cycle #1) by Peter J. Wacks and Mark Ryan
The Camelot Papers by Peter David
Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart
The Emperor’s Soul (Elantris) by Brandon Sanderson
The Festival of Bones (MythWorld #1) by James A. Owen
The Immortals by Tracy Hickman
The Monarch of the Glen (American Gods #1.5) by Neil Gaiman
The Sacrifice (Fey #1) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Spirit Walker by David Farland

Borrowed from the Library:
Boots Under Her Bed by Jodi Thomas, Jo Goodman, Kaki Warner, Alison Kent
The Cold Cold Ground (Sean Duffy #1) by Adrian McKinty
Concealed in Death (In Death #38) by J.D. Robb
Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin
Spirit of Steamboat (Walt Longmire #9.1) by Craig Johnson

Guest Post by Mark T Barnes on Starting in the Middle + Giveaway

When I read The Garden of Stones last spring, it absolutely blew me away. It arrived as a review book from Library Journal, and all I can say is that those can be hit or miss. The Garden of Stones was such a big hit that I gave it a starred review in LJ and included it in my Best of 2013 list.  The Obsidian Heart (reviewed last week) is every bit as excellent, and now I’m stalking NetGalley for The Pillars of Sand.

If you love epic fantasy on a grand scale, immerse yourself in this series. You’ll be utterly lost in this world, and never want to come out.

The Past Informing the Present
by Mark T. Barnes

Garden of Stones by Mark T BarnesWhen I was talking to Marlene about the topic of the blog article, she raised a point about how in The Garden of Stones there was the sensation of being dropped into the middle of a story, rather than getting a gentle introduction.

There’s a line in The Obsidian Heart from Mari’s point of view that says, the ripples of today were stones in the waters of yesterday. We form our truths from the facts of what’s gone before. You can’t separate what was from what is. You can only change what will be. It’s Mari admitting that for good or ill, she is who she because of everything she has seen and done in her life up to that point.

My view of characters is that they should have realistic motivations that are rooted to events a reader can understand. We’re all of us born, our values shaped by history, society, cultural mores, our family, and our friends. Who we are in our own story changes as we progress through life and experience what it has to offer. But none of us started out at the beginning of history, we’re only page one of our own story: there are millennia of civilisation across the globe that precede us, with history that shaped the world in which we live. We in turn will add to that history, leaving part of ourselves for others to find.

The Obsidian Heart by Mark T. BarnesFor that reason I designed the world of Īa before I developed the characters that populated it. Like a lot of fantasy novels it started with a map, which I explored and gave names to things. Names, like all language, have weight and meaning. What kind of people lived in a place called Shrīan? Or Tanis? Pashrea, Ygran, or the Golden Kingdom of Manté? How do these different people see each other, and would their histories provide frictions that added depth to the relationships in the story? From the knowledge of the various races, their cultures, and history, the overarching story concept took place. It was only then that I knew what characters I thought would be interesting, and best suited to telling the stories in The Garden of Stones, The Obsidian Heart, and The Pillars of Sand.

pillars of sand by mark barnesThe decision to start an epic story this way wasn’t without risk, and it’s a different approach to a lot of fantasy stories where the reader starts with a younger and less experienced character. But the story I wanted to tell wouldn’t have worked with a naïve character at the helm: if I was being honest with my story they would’ve been mown down before the end of the third chapter. As it was, knowing my world and my story informed my choice of using experienced characters, each with their own fully formed histories. Even so each of the characters grows and changes throughout the series like any person would, influenced by their own actions as well as the events of the world around them.

Starting characters in the middle of a larger backstory, but at the beginning of their own story arc, is also something I’m doing in the two novels I’m working on at the moment. The device gives the characters a context within which to work, as well as a series of events that the antagonists also react to in a different way.

To tell the Echoes of Empire story the way I did, I:

  • Designed the world so that I knew the geography, history, the cultures that existed, and those cultures related to each other;
  • Planned the story based upon the way the world worked, and the meaningful historical events that underpinned the story arcs; then
  • Designed the characters I felt were best suited to tell that tale and to represent the world, both as point of view characters and supporting cast. It also informed the decision to have the antagonist as one of the point of view characters, as he was the cause of some events, as well as suffering in the effects of them.

There’s a lot of work to write a story this way but that work won’t go to waste. The benefit of the process is that I now have a fully realised world with various nations, species of people, culture and thousands of years of history to bring a level of consistency and gravity to Īa. I also have characters who’ve left their mark on the world, which will be referenced in short stories and later books. It ensures that the world is a living one, and gives fans a literary version of an ‘Easter egg’ when they read different stories set in the same world.

There’s no right or wrong way to start a story, only the right or wrong way for the story itself. Every story will be different, depending on the nature of the world, and the people who live in it. We authors ask for readers to take a lot on faith, and trust that we’ve done what we’ve done for a reason. Then all we can do is hope that the decisions we’ve made resonate with our readers and that enjoy what we’ve done.

mark t barnesMark Barnes lives in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of the epic fantasy Echoes of Empire series, published by 47North. The series includes The Garden of Stones (released May 2013), and The Obsidian Heart (released October 2013). The Pillars of Sand is the third of the series, due for release in May 2014. You can find out more at, his Facebook page at, or follow Mark on Twitter @MarkTBarnes.


Mark is generously giving away a signed copy of The Obsidian Heart. And since Mark is in Australia, he is opening the giveaway Internationally. He’ll ship your book to wherever you are!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: The Obsidian Heart by Mark T. Barnes

The Obsidian Heart by Mark T. BarnesFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: epic fantasy
Series: Echoes of Empire #2
Length: 438 pages
Publisher: 47North
Date Released: October 15, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

A plot to overthrow the Shrīanese Federation has been quashed, but the bloody rebellion is far from over…and the struggle to survive is just beginning.

Warrior-mage Indris grows weary in his failed attempts to thwart the political machinations of Corajidin, and faces the possibility of imprisonment upon his return to his homeland. Moreover, Indris’s desire for Corajidin’s daughter, Mari, is strong. Can he choose between his duty and his desire…and at what cost?

Left alienated from her House, Mari is torn between the opposing forces of her family and her country—especially now that she’s been offered the position of Knight-Colonel of the Feyassin, the elite royal guards whose legacy reaches back to the days of the Awakened Empire. As the tensions rise, she must decide if her future is with Indris, with her family, or in a direction not yet foreseen.

As he awaits trial for his crimes, Corajidin confronts the good and evil within himself. Does he seek redemption for his cruel deeds, or does he indebt himself further to the enigmatic forces that have promised him success, and granted him a reprieve from death? What is more important: his ambition, regaining the love stolen from him, or his soul?

My Review:

Garden of Stones by Mark T BarnesJust as with The Garden of Stones, the first book in the Echoes of Empire series, The Obsidian Heart left me with a terrible “book hangover”. When I turned the last page, I was just not ready to step away from this world. While it’s definitely not a place I’d want to live (at least at this moment in the story!) Shrian is certainly a place filled with compelling stories.

Even though The Obsidian Heart begins with a recap of previous events from the first book, the story as a whole owes some of its intense immersiveness to the way that the reader is dropped into a history that feels like it has gone one for centuries, and will continue after the book is closed, whether our heroes survive their particular tale or not.

The weight of Shrian’s past helps the reader to sink inside the tale.

And the tale that continues from The Garden of Stones is both epic and deeply personal. Lord Corajidin continues on his mad quest to fulfill the destiny he saw in a vision, a vision that told him that he would become the Emperor of a new Awakened Empire, and lead his people back to their former greatness.

But Corajidin’s vision has convinced him that the glory he has foreseen justify any means necessary to come to fruition; even means that his people would consider anathema. Not just political assassinations by the score (the history has precedents for that!) but by dealing with the demon and death-bringing witches of the dreadful Drear.

Corajidin reminds this reader all too much of Shakespeare’s Macbeth; he creates the conditions that the witches foretold because of the foretelling. He doesn’t see that the path his self-fulfilling prophecy has led him down will ruin him and all he thought he fought for in the end.

There are three point-of-view characters in The Obsidian Heart. One is Corajidin, voraciously chewing up everything and everyone in his path to achieve the destiny he believes should be his. Or perhaps has been led to believe to be his. I wonder.

Indris shows us a different side to Corajidin’s dreams of a new empire. Indris is a warrior-mage of the Seq. His order was born two millennia ago to fight the witches that Corajidin is bringing back to prominence. He wants to stem the tide of death and put the evil creatures back in the fell places where Corajidin’s allies found them.

But Indris, as we saw in The Garden of Stones, is also an heir of one of the rival Houses to Corajidin. He could take the throne himself, or at least return to being a leader of his own House. While his only desire is to be his own man and follow his own agenda, too many factions have plans of their own for him, and none of those plans are in Indris’ best interest. Even worse, Indris believes that those plans are not in the empire’s best interests.

While Indris wants to fight Corajidin, there are too many forces arrayed against him who try to force him, whether by physical threats or magical torment, to go down the path of their choosing.

The last perspective belongs to Mari, the warrior-poet daughter of Corajidin. She has never fit into her father’s plans for her, but there was a part of him that enjoyed her defiant spirit. But she believes that her father has gone mad as well as evil, and she betrayed him. Her family has chosen to believe that her betrayal was caused by her affair with Indris, and not by the convictions of her own mind. They want her back within the family fold, whether she wants to be there or not.

The Obsidian Heart is a story built of many overlapping layers. Corajidin’s manipulations to bring about his new Awakened Empire push the action forward, as Indris and Mari fight to remain together and to save what they can. The politics and the magic constructs that underlie the war make for fascinating reader, as each player follows an agenda that impacts the others.

As this installment of the story concludes, one is left breathless, wondering how much more can possibly go wrong for the forces of good. Always a dangerous question, but one that leaves the reader begging for more.

Escape Rating A: The Obsidian Heart is definitely the middle-book in this trilogy. As the story progresses, the situation gets darker and darker for Indris and Mari.

Shrian is a dark and dangerous place. Every person that we meet has their own agenda, and it’s almost always hidden. Indris and Mari spend a lot of this chapter of the story preventing other people’s nefarious plans, both for the empire and for themselves. The entire world they know seems to be arrayed against them. While they are not the only people working towards something like the greater good, they seem to be the required element that pushes so many people to get off their self-satisfied asses and do something about it.

The only thing required for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing.

And so many of the plots regarding Indris’ and Mari’s potential futures are worse than nothing. Too many people are using the chaos to forward their own agendas, and they are more than willing to block our heroes from taking forward action.

The political backstabbing and level of assassinations and faked enemies that takes place in order to make Corajidin’s vision come to fruition reads like the layers upon layers of plotting in Kushiel’s Dart. It also reminds me of the original Dune, in that feeling that the machinations are part of a Great Game of politics and empires that has been going on since long before the current story; where this is but a chapter in some greater history.

But the downward progression is reminiscent of one of Murphy’s lesser known laws: Things are always darkest just before they turn completely black. The Obsidian Heart is rather like The Empire Strikes Back, in that the story ends on a breathless down-stroke.

pillars of sand by mark barnesI’m almost sorry that I didn’t wait until May, when the third and final chapter, The Pillars of Sand, is due to be released. Because I want to know what happens next, and I want to know now. But The Obsidian Heart was every bit as amazing as The Garden of Stones.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Rex Regis by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Rex Regis by L E Modesitt JrFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, hardcover
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Imager Portfolio, #8
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: January 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

The saga of the Imager Quaeryt, Commander in the forces of Lord Bhayar, reaches a new climax as the great struggle to unify the continent of Lydar enters its final phase. Only the land of Khel remains uncommitted to Bhayar’s rule. Their decision could mean a lasting peace, or more conflict across an already war-ravaged realm.

While the conqueror of Bovaria awaits emissaries to arrive with news of Khel’s decision, other weighty matters occupy Bhayar, his sister Velora, and her husband Quaeryt—not the least of which is the fulfillment of Quaeryt’s dream to create the world’s first Imager academy, where the magical abilities of these powerful casters may be honed, managed, and put to the service of the common good.

But before that dream may be realized, or Khel’s fateful choice made known, the spectre of high treason threatens to unravel all that Quaeryt has achieved, catapulting him toward a fateful confrontation with Bhayar’s most powerful military leaders.

My Review:

Scholar by L. E. Modesitt Jr.This volume in the second part of the Imager Portfolio, which started with Scholar, has been about the consolidation of Bhayar’s rule over Tilbor and conquest of the rest of the continent in order to create the continental empire that becomes the Solidar we know in the first volume Imager. It’s been a long ride, or read.

Rex Regis is Bhayar’s title, or it will be if Quaeryt gets the job done, because Quaeryt has been the mover and shaker (sometimes literally) behind many events. Quaeryt’s goal is to create a College where imagers like himself can be trained and protected. In returned, those imagers will back the crown against the High Holders (Lords) and Factors (Merchant Princes).

In case it’s not obvious, imagers are mages. If they manage to live long enough, in a world that reviles them, they can become very powerful mages.

Quaeryt Ryterson is the most powerful imager his country has ever seen. More importantly, he seems to be the most intelligent. His story, told in the books Scholar, Princeps, Imager’s Battalion, Antiagon Fire and now Rex Regis, have made the journey of someone who goes through life intending to be the power behind the throne, fascinating beyond description. Quaeryt has always known that his safety, his prosperity, the best legacy he can leave behind him, lie in making imagers as a group useful to the best ruler he can find, or make, and that the ruler in question can never ever be himself with his imaging “sorcery”. His resistance to temptation is steadfast.

Bhayar thinks early in Quaeryt’s career that he can make him more compliant by arranging for a marriage between Quaeryt and Bhayar’s youngest sister, Vaelora. Instead, it becomes a love match that gives both of those strong-willed people a partner they can rely on no matter what fate brings them.

Rex Regis seems to be the story of the final consolidation of the empire. All of the conquered territories have been brought into line, except, now that the war is over, the jockeying for position among the conquerors has begun. Some of the senior military commanders feel that Bhayar is too young to truly be the firm leader that the new world demands. And he listens to Quaeryt much too much, when he should be listening to them!

But are there really traitors within their midst, or is Quaeryt seeing shadows in men’s hearts at the end of a long and dangerous campaign? Or have fugitive imagers from the defeated rulers suborned loyal men?

Some campaigns never end. Some victories are hard won. And some warriors who deserve to see the peace they have fought for are not fortunate enough to live to see it arrive.

Escape Rating A: Quaeryt’s journey has been a never-ending pleasure to read. I say this having been up until 2 am the first night reading Rex Regis because I didn’t want to stop. But each book has been just that way. Even though Quaeryt has usually been in the position of either bureaucrat or soldier on campaign, he’s always been a self-aware observer of his situation, and his observations are interesting. His mind is never idle, and he’s always trying to make things better.

Modesitt has managed to make both bureaucracy and the hurry-up-and-wait of a long military campaign into compelling reading.

There’s also a bit of the “head, heart, synthesis” trio, or classic Freudian Power Trio among Quaeryt, Bhayar and Vaelora. (Think Kirk, Spock and McCoy from the original Star Trek series.) Quaeryt represents cold logical analysis, Vaelora is the emotional heart, and Bhayar as the ruler has to make the final decisions.

Quaeryt has earned the loyalty of the men who serve with him. He could have used that loyalty to become ruler himself. He could even have become a tyrant. Listening to the logic of why he doesn’t, it’s refreshing. It’s not often that the hero is also in effect a beta character; someone who sets out to create a power structure behind the throne.

I’m not 100% positive whether Quaeryt’s entire saga is done, or not. Rex Regis ends at a point where we can see the “empire that will be”, the place that it is at the start of Imager. Quaeryt’s entire story has been a prequel for the first trilogy. But, there are also loose ends that could still be tied up. I would love to visit this world again.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.