Content Warnings: Blood and gore, murder, suicide, infidelity, death of a loved one, ableism, rape, torture, abuse, and war themes.
After devouring books one and two in this trilogy I took a bit of a break…I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally ready to finish this series. The other day I finally gathered the courage and dove into book three. This entire series was a wild adventure full of twists and turns that I never saw coming. This final installment was the first one that I had to step away from, a few times because I would get so overwhelmed with emotions from new information that emerged, or by the actions of the characters.
Within the first two books, we slowly start to unravel the complicated strings Talyien’s father put in place before his death. How a man, long dead, could still have so many moving puzzle pieces is just beyond me. Imagine knowing people so well that you’re able to, sometimes perfectly, predict how they would react and plan accordingly. The arrogance of Talyien’s father is truly one of a kind.
I’ve seen quite a few reviews, since starting book one, where people expressed not connecting to or liking Queen Talyien but for me, I’ve felt for her since the very beginning. It was so easy for me to understand her complicated feelings around her dad, someone who she knows did horrible things but who she still always looked up to, loved and wanted to impress. Growing up I was always trying to please my parent, no matter how hard I tried though I was never good enough and yet I still kept trying and still loved them.
The way in which she chose to raise her son also made perfect sense. When we’re raised with such a high bar, that we never seem to reach, we try to ensure our children don’t feel that same pressure, we try to make sure they’re able to keep their naivete and innocence as long as possible. That balance in itself is difficult when we were raised in an extreme, and pressure-filled, way. How do you ensure you guide your children without pushing them too hard?
Not one character is truly good or truly evil they are varying combinations created by their individual experiences. I love the complexity and depths of the characters in this series. We are all products of our environment and it’s up to us to decide how much we let that define and shape who we are.
I appreciated that the author didn’t rely on the “magical healing” trope that so many fantasy authors use and instead, in my opinion, showed us that it’s wrong to use that trope. Yuebek, the only one who seems to be able to harness the Agan to heal life-threatening wounds does so in foul ways and always reaks of death. It’s seen as unnatural the way in which he uses the Agan to survive situations that should have killed, or maimed him, like the fire in book one. In book two a side character has their leg viciously bitten by a dragon and instead of using the Agan to regenerate the leg or grow a new one, it’s just accepted that they’ll need to learn to navigate differently going forward.
This final book will sit with me a long time, I’m already thinking that in a year or so I’ll want to reread this entire trilogy to see if there are breadcrumbs or any clues before certain truths are revealed. I am excited to see there are a few other books set within this world, although at different time periods, so I have even more to explore.
If you enjoy high fantasy stories with political manipulation, a badass warrior Queen, complex characters, and everything you think you know turns out to be something else… then I highly recommend checking this series out!