Book Review: The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso

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I’ve finally made it to the end of The Chronicles of The Bitch Queen. It’s been an emotional and intimate journey with Queen Talyien as she penned her story, and it would be an understatement to say I enjoyed it. Tali’s narrative has become a new favorite fantasy series, with a new favorite protagonist, and with K.S. Villoso as a new favorite author. If you’re looking for compelling and complex characters in an epic non-western fantasy setting I recommend you give this series a chance.

Cover of The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso.

Book Blurb

The stunning finale to the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy where the queen of a divided land must unite her people against the enemies who threaten to tear her country apart. K. S. Villoso is a “powerful new voice in fantasy.” (Kameron Hurley)

Queen Talyien is finally home, but dangers she never imagined await her in the shadowed halls of her father’s castle.

War is on the horizon. Her son has been stolen from her, her warlords despise her, and across the sea, a cursed prince threatens her nation with invasion in order to win her hand.

Worse yet, her father’s ancient secrets are dangerous enough to bring Jin Sayeng to ruin. Dark magic tears rifts in the sky, preparing to rain down madness, chaos, and the possibility of setting her nation aflame.

Bearing the brunt of the past and uncertain about her future, Talyien will need to decide between fleeing her shadows or embracing them before the whole world becomes an inferno.

The Chronicles of the Bitch Queen
The Wolf of Oren-yaro
The Ikessar Falcon
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng

Goodreads Blurb

Highlights

  • Character Driven
  • Complexity
  • Unexpected Plot Twists
  • Themes: Identity and Legacy

The Review

I can’t believe this trilogy has come to an end. What started as a rich character driven Asian-inspired fantasy with The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, became more complex and intriguing with The Ikessar Falcon, has fully come together in The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng in what is hands down the best installment of the series. I just can’t tell you how much I loved this conclusion to Queen Talyien’s story. It is filled with twists and turns, complexity, action, and dragons! All of which is bound up in themes of identity and legacy that track from page one of book one all the way to the final page of book three. K.S. Villoso just has a tremendous talent for storytelling.

As I’ve said in all my reviews for the books in this series, one of my favorite elements is the rich character driven aspect of the narrative. It makes the story so much more compelling and makes me attach to the characters much more strongly than I otherwise would. This complex character driven element is even more on display in The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng. What’s been building up over the course of the trilogy just explodes in this book. Tali’s narrative is coming to it’s conclusion and the stakes are high. The fact that it is Tali herself who is penning the story means we get this even deeper insight into her mind and feeling and actions. And she isn’t some squeaky clean heroine. She has rough edges and makes bad choices, and at times you just shake your head, but you always root for her and love her and hope beyond hope things will work out. She’s so well written. But it isn’t just Tali, all of the characters are rich and nuanced whether you’re looking at the “good guys” like Khine or the evil antagonists like Prince Yuebek who over the course of the book we come to know in more vivid detail. And then there’s one of the most interesting characters of the entire series, Tali’s father Yeshin who we only glimpse in memory and thought because he died long before the story began. His character and his will truly drives the entire narrative from beginning to end and everyone else is just reacting to it. For a non-POV character to have so much impact on every single page is truly remarkable. But it’s only in book 3 that Yeshin’s full influence becomes known and it’s massive.

All of this just adds to the complexity of this story. But it isn’t just the complex characters. There’s the multiple plot twists, and themes of identity and legacy which I’ll get to below, but from a western reader’s viewpoint there’s also the Asian foundation to the book and series which cannot be ignored. I say “from a western reader’s viewpoint” because elements of the story may seem off to many of us. I’ve seen some reviews complaining about Tali’s actions and decisions while not taking into account the cultural aspects of where those derive from. Tali isn’t written from a western individualistic societal point of view. Neither are any of the other characters. The cultural and societal aspects of the narrative must be taken into account and for me make it a much richer and compelling read. Villoso just dials this up to an even higher level in The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng as Tali and company must finally sort out who they are and what they want as events come to a bloody conclusion.

One thing I particularly enjoyed in The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng were the plot twists. And yes there were more than one. They were handled really well and there were times I gasped and other times I actually yelled “NO you f’ing didn’t!” Villoso accomplished this in part because of how drawn to and attached to the characters I’d become (see above) and in part because of how the story was woven together, not just in this installment but all the way from the beginning of book one.

If you read my reviews you know I’m always trying to look for themes and what really stood out to me in The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng was the ideas of identity and legacy. This book is all about probing who we are, who we want to be, and how we want to be remembered. This is particularly true for Tali as she is telling her story. As she does it she is constantly at war with herself over her identity and what is expected of her. It feeds into what her legacy will be. But this is true for everyone in the story. Khine has to decide who he is in relation to Tali and his family and where he’s from, Rayyel in relation to his marriage to Tali their son and his family, Yuebek in relation to his past and his ambitions, and even Yeshin in relation to his will and desires lived out through his daughter. These themes are explored through every single significant character and even some of the minor ones. It is a testament to Villoso’s ability to weave the narrative together into this compelling tapestry that we can sit back and view; detailed and intricate up close while broad and epic from a distance.

Final Thoughts

I don’t really have much else to say that I haven’t already written down. Well that’s not true…I could probably keep going for another hour and talk about the action and pacing and on and on but nobody would keep reading. So I’ll repeat what I’ve said before. I LOVE THIS SERIES. It’s fitting that The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng is the final book because it is hands down the best of the three. This trilogy has found a place in my soul and Tali’s character will stick with me forever. So yeah, I recommend you read it and I hope you love it as much as I do.

Oh…one final note on that cover. I’ve loved all the covers in this series but this one is by far my favorite. The coloring, the imagery, and Tali all regal and fierce and just so very stunning. So well done.

*I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: K.S. Villoso
Series: The Chronicles of The Bitch Queen #3
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
Format: Paperback ARC
Pages: 640 or so

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