Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book review: "The Born Queen"

With this book I finished "Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone" series by Gregory Keyes.. First part of blog will be without any spoilers, while the second part is more detailed, but presumes you have read previous books.

When I started reading this series, I expected something ordinary (I've been spoiled by great books I've been reading lately). I also expected first book be great and then sequels each be little weaker than their prequel. It looks I've been wrong on both accounts.

On first, I stay with the opinion that this is not a series that will leave you pondering for weeks with its epic events or clever plots, nor will you have troubles with keeping track of characters or understanding all facets of their personalities and motivations. Instead, it is a nice little (some 2000 pages) high fantasy series with all the nice elements it needs. Considering my second prejudice, here I was clearly wrong. Books just kept getting better as series advanced.

Last book, "The Born Queen" finally explains all things hinted so far. All plot-lines are nicely finished and it feels as a very natural ending. I especially liked the "life goes on, new problems come" ending. Book itself is very fast and full of action. As before (if I remember correctly), every chapters jumps to other character/group and if often ends in mini-cliffhangers. I was very surprised with some of the events in this book; I often questioned author's choices, but in the end, Keyes pulled it off very nicely.

This is a great conclusion to the series and everyone who enjoyed first three books is bound to enjoy this one, too. Series itself is very good read. If you like high fantasy and you are not looking for something particular or innovative, you will surely like it.

Reviews of previous books can be found here, here and here...

If you have read first three books, you can continue with reading (spoilers for previous books only)...

Events in "The Born Queen" continue few months after the events in "The Blood Knight". Anne has successfully gained the throne, but is now pressed from two sides: Hansa and the Church. But the main problem stays the changes on her personality caused by her new powers. Darkness in her soul will grow to unimaginable levels. Queen Muriel is sent with Sir Neil and her bodyguard/assassin Alis to Hansa, to try to negotiate for peace. When they arrive there, they will start asking themselves was this the only reason Anne sent them there. They will meet some old friends, some expected, but some unexpected. On the other side of the world, Stephen is slowly searching for the secret he was sent to find: the power of Virgeny Dare. He will find power, but of other nature. Aspar, on the other hand, is feeling quite powerless; more so, he is in power of geos the Sarnwood witch installed on him. Leoff is trying to enjoy his recently acquired happiness, but that will not last long, because his skill will be needed to fix the law of death. Cazio founds himself turned much to the side, but he will show that person doesn't always need mystic powers to win.

I was surprised to see how much character of Anne got shadowed. It reminded me on the Moral Event Horizon trope on TVtropes.org. It describes how character can be evil but still likable until he/she does something too evil, which is referred as crossing the Moral Event Horizon and falling in a black hole of evil. This is not exactly the case here (depending on how you interpret Anne's inner influence), but Anne definitely dances of the brink of MEH. This is not true only for Anne, but for few other characters, like Stephen and Aspar.

There were other events that surprised me: much of what happened was unexpected. I am satisfied how plots untangled and how things fell in their places. I say again, ending was very good. On the other hand, there are not many surprises regarding characters, except darkening of some of them. Some of them are a bit pushed to side (like Leoff), but on the other hand, this was intentionally short book.

Regarding flaws, I can only object occasional confusion. That was especially evident with Stephen. There were several instances when I wasn't sure what he is doing or why. That is from one side, necessary because of circumstances he got himself in, but I think that it could have been written better and clearer.

Nothing much left to say: if you liked previous books, you will definitely be satisfied with the conclusion "The Born Queen" offers. It is a darker book than its predecessors, but also better for that. Great ending for "Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone" series.

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