Sorcery of a Queen by Brian Naslund — Book Review
The battle at Floodhaven is over, the fate of the dragons has been decided, yet in the aftermath, the lands of Terra are still on the brink of ruin. Blood is still being shed. A mad scientist plans to make his move and the new Balarian Emperor strikes to gain power over Almira. Infested by war, famine, and an age-old conflict between nature and science, our main protagonists embark on a dire quest. Ashlyn, Bershad and Felgor journey to Papyrian in hopes of discovering more about Ashlyn’s newfound sorcery. But will the three of them be able to use what they find to save Terra?
Sorcery of a Queen by Brian Naslund is a story of endurance against all odds and simultaneously an exploration of what happens when science goes too far. Yet underneath the darkness, it is also a tale of endearing companionships in an otherwise brutal world.
What makes Sorcery of a Queen a worthy sequel to Blood of an Exile? Well firstly, it’s broader in scope as our protagonists are placed in various locations throughout Terra. We delve deeper into the Dainwood forest, we sail to Papyrian and even a mysterious island beyond. The world-building is enriched with different cultures and practices. Due to this Sorcery of a Queen also inevitably holds a larger cast of characters. Many of our beloved favourites remain significant to the narrative, but we are treated to a variety of new characters too.
My beloved Bershad, Ashlyn, and Felgor continued to be as captivating and charming as ever. Their dynamics in Blood of an Exile were some of my favourite parts to read and this sequel holds up to that same standard. No actually, it surpasses it. Through these characters, we learn an abundance more about the magic system and its unfortunate consequences. Not only that but Naslund shows us that magic is also science, as he gives us scientific plausibility for the way magic is produced. Simply put, he makes the unreal real. Then as their quest became more dangerous, more action-packed, and new characters such as Goll, Vash and Wendell joined their band, their bond deepened and along with that came all the banter. Oh, how I loved the banter! In fact, I very much appreciated the way Naslund layered various degrees of humour throughout the whole book. He included humour ranging from crude, cleverly witted to my favourite of all – dark humour. I’m very much drawn to a grimdark tale that’s laced with well-written humour and this didn’t disappoint.
‘‘You’ve been brewing potions and tonics all this time, it’s the same general shit, right?”
“No,” Jolan said. “It’s not the same general shit. Just because I can brew a cock-rot tonic doesn’t mean I can fly a skyship!”
Here is Jolan, our young and naive medic who really grows in this sequel. Through his character we are shown the gory mess of a battlefield, the chaos of men, women and children lying injured, dying or dead, and even the confusion of who should be treated first. The realities of a field doctor are starkly represented as Naslund never shies away from the brutality of warfare. However Naslund also poignantly reflects upon the confusion and overwhelming emotions of first love and also of a found family. I won’t say too much here but with the addition of the Jaguar warriors such as Cumberland, Willem and Oromir we see Jolan struggle with his identity, accepting his sexuality and finding his place in the world.
As with any book which features multiple POV, there is likely to be one character who you are somewhat less invested in. Personally this applied with the character Kira for me. Fundamentally she sought power – she would not be a subservient Empress, one who is meek and mild beneath her Emperor husband’s rule. Her political moves amounted to moving chess pieces on a board, until checkmate, she had exactly what she wanted. Kira’s narrative involved a lot of manipulation of various nobility, which was initially interesting but at times it became hard to keep up with her schemes. However, I’d say by the end of the book things do take a very unexpected turn indeed, so Naslund has most definitely left me pondering over her fate.
Secondly, as with Blood of an Exile, once again dragons are detrimental to lands of Terra in Sorcery of a Queen. I love the way Naslund brings such realism in his treatment of dragons – not only are they significant to the balance of the environment, but he also injects traits into them which you would find in real animals of today. Migration patterns, mating habits, hunting formations, they are all detailed with an air of authenticity. It truly is fantastic to see an author treat dragons with the most meticulous care.
‘The natural order depends upon killing. From pea-sized spiders to castle-sized dragons, everything in this world either kills to survive, or dies to keep something else alive. The peacefulness of nature is an illusion. A trick played on untrained eyes.’
However, although the dragons may play a part in being the saviours of Terra, in this sequel they now become a vital source of its destruction too. Naslund shows that progression can be a wonderful thing, for example, Jolan shows us that the more medical advancement he can achieve through researching the nature around him and their correlation with each other the more illnesses he can effectively cure. Yet, on the other hand, we are presented with a character like Osyrus Ward, to be more precise – our villain, who shows us that in the hands of a madman scientist, progression can truly be a most horrifying thing. His experimentations and discovery of the uses of dragon bones is the cause of our main dread and destruction. Much in the same way Michael Crichton philosophises in his Jurassic Park novel – “Scientists are actually preoccupied with accomplishment. So they are focused on whether they can do something. They never stop to ask if they should do something”, this notion also applies in this novel too.
Sorcery of a Queen at its heart is a wonderfully nuanced multilayered sequel, which paves the way for what is sure to be an upcoming thrilling finale. If you’re looking for a series that’s grim yet laced with humour, brutal yet endearing, and has dragons done right, then The Dragons of Terra series is exactly what you need.
ARC provided by Tor UK in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the copy! Sorcery of a Queen is out now!