In case there was any doubt, the cover of my ARC of this book spells it out for you:
When kingdoms clash, every crown will be tarnished by the bloody price of ambition.
This book is solidly set in the same space as Game of Thrones, and if that’s what you’re looking for, it delivers: many characters in intersecting plot-lines, evil schemers, court intrigue, bloody tyranny gone mad. I’ve been following Karen Miller’s works for some time, and she also delivers on the necessities for this kind of plot — strong characterization, plenty of dramatic tension, unexpected twists and interactions between the plot-lines.
And yet I’m dissatisfied. Some of it may not really be Miller’s fault; she’s delivered what the cover promises, and maybe I shouldn’t complain. But in the end, I have a problem with a narrative that ends up telling you the whole thing has been the work of a puppet-master behind the scenes, and gives you no clue how or when in the series any of the main characters will get a clue. And I have a problem with the heavy dosage of amorality embodied by most of the characters. I don’t think that’s how evil works, and while Karen Miller has given us two more characters we can believe in than George R.R. Martin, it’s hard to stay with them when the whole narrative sets them up as the patsies.
I strongly suspect I’ll like the later books in this series better, once some of the machinations of evil come out into the open, and there’s a chance for the probable intended hero and heroine to come into their own more. But this book is all about creating a really messy situation that can be the fodder of those later books, and that puts limits on how satisfying the plot can be on its own, without the rest of the series.
Worth reading. But if you’re not a fan of Gerrge R.R. Martin, go in with your eyes open.