“The Ally is there, but only ever as a shadow, unexplained catastrophe or murder committed at the behest of a dark vengeful spirit. Sorting truth from myth is often a fruitless task."
Reviewed From ARC
Narrative: Third Person, Past Tense, Subjective.
First up, If it has been a while since you read Tower Lord, I would be inclined to suggest you go back and read at least the last few chapters again. Ryan throws you head long into this book, as there is no re-capping or going over old ground whatsoever. It is full steam ahead from page 1 and if your memories are a little sketchy from reading it in 2012, you might need some refreshing so you don't end up stumbling through the first part.
Queen of Fire carries on with the same POV characters as were in Tower Lord: Lyrna, Vaelin, Frentis Reva and of course Verniers with his part introductions. All of them are reeling from the traumas they've experienced, and are still neck deep in the quagmire of war. Finding a way to pull themselves out proves not to be the easiest task!
Vaelin, now without his Song, feels inadequate and unable to fight for his Queen in the standard which is he believes is required. He decides that the best way to fight this battle is to actually find out what the hell is really going on and why, by searching for the wisdom of those in the know about The Ally. His developing relationship with Dahrena is understated but evolving, really lovely, and a real catalyst for Vaelin to continue his quest. It also proves a nice point of tension with Lyrna...
Frentis is banding together his new cohort of warriors and is taking his role of the Red Brother seriously, as he tries to thwart the Volarians. Elverah's presence still haunts his dreams nightly, maintaining a bond with her special brand of crazy. Surprisingly, Elverah became one of my favourite characters in Queen of Fire. She may be insane, but the beauty of her insanity is strangely alluring. I may have even felt a little sorry for her..
For me, the two starring characters, and those I consider the ones that went through the most development are Lyrna and Reva. Lyrna is now Queen of a realm under attack and her blood at boiling point after her trials in Tower Lord. And Queen of Fire is an apt description of her, as her need vengeance comes close to getting the better of her when dealing with not only her enemy, but also her subjects. Walking a tenuous line between what is needed to save her realm and what is required to soothe her fire, she throws herself into the role of Queen with a fierce gusto. Her intelligence and strength shines in every action and word spoken, as she hides her vulnerabilities and jealousies away from her people.
Reva, needing to serve the realm and defeat those that scourged her people and territory, has to make some extremely uncomfortable decisions, using deceptions about the Faith of her people in order to gather members to her army to fight for the realm. The struggle she goes through, reconciling what she needs to do for the good of the people, whilst lying to them about the faith that defined every action in her early life is really intense. The despair she feels because of her actions really seeps through. I wasn't a big Reva fan at the beginning of Tower Lord, but her growth has been been truly exponential and is an outstanding character in Queen.
Queen of Fire, apart from the massive, fast, furious and glorious battle scenes, is a book about gaining knowledge and developing the exposition in the series. And there is a bucket load to find out. All the history of the realm, the faiths, prophecies - basically all the things that were mysteries in the first two books are put out for display. There is alot of information given out, but it unravels itself in ways that still make the scenes interesting, rather than a simple sit down lecture session. There was an occasional sense of being overloaded, as if maybe it could've been metered out a little better throughout the series, but it was only occasionally.
The pacing is fairly sedate to begin with, but not yawningly slow by any means. Once it picks up however, there isn't anything to stop the juggernaut. Every page has movement and development, characters facing a new foe or finding out a new fact, dealing with a battle or the ramifications of one. There are some extra insane scenes that may cause the brain to explode, but the pacing is fairly even throughout after part 2 kicks in.
There is some really beautiful extra world building in Queen of Fire, visiting new places during Vaelin's travels. Having access to these yet explored regions and cultures, adds some extra depth to the world by delving into the minds of people's that inhabit the regions, their motivations, trials, tribulations, magics and loves. Ryan gives the world a sense of fullness and expanse by travelling outside the traditional Realms, and there's a sense of wonderment that goes along with it.
There were only two real negative points in my opinion, and the first was Brother Caenis. After the big reveal in Tower Lord, I expected that we would be seeing much more of him in Queen of Fire, maybe even becoming a POV character. It didn't happen, and I felt a little cheated that he really didn't show up that much at all. He played his part, gave some emotional moments, but he just didn't make the impact I would've liked to see. In fact, he was probably the least three dimensional character in the book and I found that a little strange when a good proportion of the secondary characters felt vibrant and extremely well fleshed out.
Secondly, I might be getting old and my memory cranky, but there are ALOT of characters in this book. Many, many, many names to try and remember, and some look very similar when you are trying to get your head around where everybody is situated and who is playing the multitudes of roles Lyrna gives out in the book (she hands out promotions and honours at mass speed!). At one stage I mistakenly thought a character was in a dungeon, when in fact he was with Lyrna fighting a battle and vice versa, due to similar names and an already overloaded memory bank. There is a DP (that I found about 3/4 of the way through the eARC, it was hiding at the back!), but when you are in the middle of an all in brawl with the enemy, flipping back and forward to it feels jarring and ruins the intense flow. I think the reason it wasn't so much of a problem during Tower Lord is that all of the characters were split into definitive regions during most of it, whereas Queen of Fire has everybody coming together, mixing and matching throughout different points.
But, truly I
.. and the overall series in so many ways. Queen of Fire was a truly fantastic ending in a series that has made people sit up and take a special note of Anthony Ryan. I think there will be a mass of people waiting on the edge of their seats to see what he puts his pen to next!
Good thing is, from the way Queen of Fire ends, there may be some room for more adventures in the Untied Realms sometime in the future....
Hardcopy Worthy? It shall be done!