This soon-to-be-released sequel to last July’s Half a King, which I review here, builds brilliantly onto the foundation set in the first book. But more importantly, the novel explores the stuff of legends, literally. Uttered words become catchphrases that evolve and spread. Memories become tales that outlive the memories themselves. The hero’s songs are spun and adapted as the tale unfolds, and then spread far and wide. In the making of this myth, the author explores the very making of myths. And I love it.
Yarvi, the first book’s protagonist, takes a major secondary role as the tale jumps a couple years down the road. The story follows two adolescents as they metamorphose into adults. Brand, built like an ox, epitomizes earnestness and just wants to do good above all else. Thorn, lithe and vicious, has the heart and soul of a warrior in the chauavinistic nation of Gettland that rejects her. Together, flitting between adversary and ally, they must travel half the world to fight for what they believe in even if it does not believe in them.
The secondary cast of characters is immeasurably rich, with a multitude of cultures and personalities clashing. The ministers [Yarvi, Scaer, Isriun, and Wexen] are deep-cunning. Many are nurturing [Safrit, Rolf, and Rin]. Many more are quirky and ruthless in their own way [Thorn, Laithlin, Grom, Odda, and Fror]. And then there is Brand:
“Don’t worry.” Safrit put her hand on [Brand’s] shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “There are plenty of other girls about.”
“Not many like her.”
“That’s a bad thing?” asked Mother Scaer. “I know of a dozen back in Vulgard who’d tear each other’s eyes out for a lad like you.”
“That’s a good thing?” asked Brand. “On balance, I’d prefer a wife with eyes.”
Mother Scaer narrowed hers, which made him more nervous still. “That’s why you pick the winner.”
With the non-stop pace of a montage scene, this tale roils and rolls. I highly recommend it. [I acquired an ARC through Goodreads First Reads.]
[Check out my other reviews here.]