Dragon-slayers don’t expect to survive to retirement age, but Bershad has unexpectedly thrived. Yet this very notoriety may be his downfall. This is book two of this epic, adventurous fantasy trilogy.
Change is coming – but will they survive the storm?
The dragonslayer Bershad and Queen Ashlyn are facing the greatest challenge of their lives.
Branded the Witch Queen and driven from her kingdom, Ashlyn flees to her mother’s people. Yet she won’t be beaten, resolving to master magical feats long thought impossible. But this could have unforeseen consequences. Meanwhile, Bershad has learnt why he seems invincible – and that he’s living on borrowed time. However, he remains determined to help Ashlyn regain her throne.
They will face a foreign emperor, commanding an army equipped with terrifying new weaponry. This aggressor will do anything to crush Ashlyn’s land, and claim its prized dragons. So to save her kingdom, both queen and dragonslayer must attempt the impossible to prevail.
Sorcery of a Queen by Brian Naslund is the second book in the Dragons of Terra trilogy.
Sorcery of a Queen takes the original concept of the first, Blood of an Exile, and ramps it up in every way; this is a sequel that lives up to the promises of its predecessor and doesn’t settle for second best. To start, there’s lots and lots of action. Like … lots. It’s what would happen if A Song of Ice and Fire swapped out Jon Snow for John Wick. It’s cinematic, fighting in the dark with your clothes off, surrounded by mushroom-fuelled zombies, steroid-like moss, dragon ships, dragons, more dragons again and big explosions – the plot is bonkers in the best way possible. I loved this book.
The plot is a direct continuation from the first, we don’t miss a moment; Bershad, Felgor and Ashlyn are on the way to Papyria to find aide there from Ashlyn’s aunt and the Eternal Empress, Okinu. Kira and Vera are embroiled in the Balarian plot to conquer Almira with their new dragon skyships – forged at the hands of Osyrus Ward whose plans seem to stretch further than just experimenting on Seeds, much further. It is ambition veiled in lies. Meanwhile, Jolan, after spending weeks in dragon warrens, has the material he needs to start his own apothecary but is dragged into the war by a group of jaguar wardens who need a healer. From Papyria, and the airships, Ashlyn and Bershad make for the mysterious Ghost Moth island after speaking to Okinu; it’s an island of demons and pirates, and the place where Osyrus Ward started his research – a place they hope will bring answers, that will lead to the true extent of the madness he plans. The plot, for the most part, is centred around Ghost Moth Island, and it’s fricking cool! I mean what’s not to love about an island with two factions of ‘corsairs’ where one of them traffics humans because of an agreement in flesh they have with the demons who live behind the dragon bone wall in the centre? The plot at this points becomes a bit of an action movie, with crossovers that gave me the Walking Dead feels and duels that’ll have you on the edge of your seat – it really is quite exciting. We get a real sense of the magic of the world here, but also how it’s rooted in a very logical science. From the standpoint of the people of Terra, anyway.
It’s that science and technology that comes forefront in this book, which slowly sees a kind of technological revolution in the form of dragon corpse tech – it’s tech in a very steampunk – or dragoncorpsepunk? – kind of way. And I love the depth which Naslund goes into again, how each part of the dragon would be used. I mean, it’s grim and almost all of the time involves dead bodies stitched to dead dragons somehow, or mushrooms and metal cogs. Yeah, it’s gross but it’s believable and works for the story.
We see the story through many POVS: Jolan, Vera, Bershad, Castor, Ashlyn and Cabbage, a veritable assortment of voice, each one with their own motivations that you feel, and each one with their different worldviews and cultures which are felt through the words they use. The things they do. One of my favourites is Jolan, he’s not strong like Bershad, but he’s intelligent, gutsy and is equally willing to throw himself into the thick of it, despite not having monstrous strength. But he is just as capable at moving the plot. I’m not saying that his POV is any less important, but his story is a nice break from the high-stakes game that our lead character is playing this time; yes, Jolan has a huge role to play, but his is very much a story of personal, intimate discovery which adds something different to Bershad’s. Bershad, of course, must get a mention. He goes from super-soldier to unstoppable force in this one. I love the evolution of his powers. The guy just doesn’t quit. I can’t go too much into it, but we do get some answers regarding what he is in this one – well, some more – and it’s terrifying. I guess it’s purposely ironic that he’s known as the Flawless Bershad, because this is a character with a lot of flaws. But in a way that grounds him into the genuine and believable despite the magic connections to dragons he has and the growing, inhuman strength that he possesses when moss is involved. A special mention goes to Brian for knowing how to put Bershad through the ringer – I mean, it can get tiring when characters never take damage, but jeez Silas gets hurt. The poor guy.
The settings we see in this one are truly out of this world. It’s a rich environment of giant mushrooms, jungle, a freaky dragon-graveyard-like island of wonder and failed experiments that was vibrant, lush and fully realised in my mind. Brian takes you on a wonderous ride through buildings and living rooms you’d expect to see in an sci-fi books and yet none of it seems out of place.
If you’ve got this far through my review and haven’t read the first book, please do. And if you’re thinking about picking up the second, do that; it’s an action-packed joy-ride through the world of Terra, high on moss and chased by zombies kind of book that’s originality bleeds through from the first and is just very, very fun.
Thank you to Jamie-Lee and Stephen from Black Crow, and to UK Tor, for the review copy. It in no way effected my review, the book sold itself to me.