Why? Why did I wait so long to read The Ikessar Falcon? Like, seriously why? I mean yeah I’ve got a lot of books on my TBR and this was just one among many. But I could have bumped it up the stack a bit. I should have bumped it up the stack a bit. I loved The Wolf of Oren-Yaro so why didn’t I read the follow-up right away? Why?
Look, here’s the takeaway you need from this review…you don’t even need to read the rest of it if you don’t want to…the one thing I want to get across if nothing else is this…
If you’re not already reading The Chronicles of The Bitch Queen, you should be because this series is just damn fantastic.
There. That’s it. That’s the whole point of anything else I might have to say about this book and this series. If you want a little more keep reading.
“The spiral to madness begins with a single push. Abandoned by her people, Queen Talyien’s quest takes a turn for the worst as she stumbles upon a plot deeper and more sinister than she could have ever imagined, one that will displace her king and see her son dead. The road home beckons, strewn with a tangled web of deceit and impossible horrors that unearth the nation’s true troubles – creatures from the dark, mad dragons, and men with hearts hungry for power. To save her land, Talyien must confront the myth others have built around her: Warlord Yeshin’s daughter, symbol of peace, warrior and queen, and everything she could never be. The price of failure is steep. Her friends are few. And a nation carved by a murderer can only be destined for war.”
- More World Building
- Blood Magic
- Character Development
K.S. Villoso keeps getting better with these stories. The writing, the characters, the worldbuilding, the tension, everything is getting better. The Ikessar Falcon is not just some filler book to get you to the final book in the series. It increases the stakes for everyone in the story and tosses in some major shifts in the plot.
First there’s more world building. Much more world building. In The Wolf of Oren-Yaro the vast mojority of the story took place across the sea in Anzhou City and the Zarojo Empire. Sure there were snippets set in Jin-Sayeng, but these were all told through the lens of memory. In The Ikessar Falcon not only do we get to see more of the Empire and its beautiful and sinister ways, but we finally get to see Jin-Sayeng in all its glory (or lack thereof). The nation Tali rules is large with many regions and ways of life based upon the geography and local threats. As the characters travel through it the reader is treated to the changes between these regions, and by that we discover just how difficult it is for Tali to hold the country together given her place and background. Indeed politics comes to play an even greater role in the series with this installment as Tali must navigate the new political landscape she finds herself in after returning from such a long absence.
In book one magic was present but we didn’t get to see or know much about it. It was a bit of a mystery and that added to the tension. In The Ikessar Falcon that magic becomes much more integral to the plot and has significant impact on the characters and their actions. In particular we get blood magic! Just saying it gives off evil undertones and sacrificial vibes. And you wouldn’t be wrong in that feeling. Villoso doesn’t get into the weeds by explaining the magic system in detail. Instead we are treated to its immediate impact and aftermath and the psychological toll it takes on the characters.
Then there’s dragons! Yep DRAGONS! We got a teeny tiny hint of them in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, enough to let us know they exist and that they may one day make another appearance. Well now they do, and it was fantastic. Dragons make everything better. Dragons made this story more exciting. Villoso’s dragons are scary not just because they are dragons, but because they have other issues going on as well. I’ll let you discover that as you read but suffice it to say they weren’t just dropped into the story to add danger and a big bad monster. But, they ARE dangerous and the ARE big bad monsters and the characters must contend with that.
But my favorite thing Villoso did with The Ikessar Falcon was the character development, which is important because these books are very much character driven stories. At it’s core The Chronicles of The Bitch Queen are the stories of Queen Talyien’s attempt to rule her nation while also being a mother, a wife, and a daughter living up to the expectations of her deceased father. It’s a mix of living up to the expectations her people have of her and her role(s), and her desire for something different; something more. To a great extent she’s trapped within the roles culture and society place upon her and she’s struggling with how to live within it and how to move beyond it. You’d think “hey, she’s queen she can do what she wants,” but it just isn’t that simple. Things are very complicated for Tali and Villoso doubles down on it in book two. Tali struggles with all of the above but there are now more suitors in her life trying to take advantage of that strained relationship with her husband, her son is in danger from all sides, her queendom is in danger of collapse (because she’s still MIA), and there’s pressure from without. On top of all that she’s dealing not with a love triangle, but a love quadrangle plus a couple other complications. All the while Tali is figuring out who she is and who she wants to be. We get to see the transition from within the first person narrative. She’s writing her own history of sorts which also makes things interesting because such a perspective always raises the question of what is she not telling you, what is she leaving out or glossing over, why does she include what she does? And as always with Tali she continues to make decisions that drive you nuts; you’ll still be loving her at one moment and screaming at her the next. But that may be expected given she’s a woman emerging from many different shadows to figure out who SHE wants to be…she’s bound to make some mistakes, take some risks, and take actions that work for her, everyone else be damned. I just love Tali’s character.
Like I said in my opening, if you’re not reading this series you should be. It’s just so good. Villoso has given us a protagonist who you’ll love despite all the ways she frustrates you because she’s believable. You may hate the decisions she makes and the tracks she takes but at the same time you’ll say to yourself, “yeah I get it.” Add to that significant mystery, danger, and action and you’ve just got a great story developing. Oh yeah…don’t forget dragons. I’m enjoying the hell out of this series and I think you will too. Book three The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng comes out next month and I can’t wait to read it.
Oh…and if anyone is wondering I’m still very much team Khine.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
Author: K.S. Villoso
Series: Chronicles of The Bitch Queen #2
Publication Date: September 22, 2020