SCORPICA by G.R. Macallister.
Titan Books. p/b. £8.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Each of the five Queendoms has responsibility for a particular area of skill. Paxim has trade, while Sestia’s land is rich for farming. The Bastion has its scribes and records. In Arca, they serve Chaos and have magic and the rarer all-magic. And in Scorpica, warriors are born and raised.
Khara dha Ellimi, queen of Scorpica, makes the long journey to the Sestian Capital for the Sun Rites, an ancient and important ritual that all five queens are obliged to attend and play their part in. Khara will present the blade with which sacrifices will be made. And none present can know what the queen of Arca, ruled by Chaos, may do.
Khara needs a successor, someone to hand the mantle to within the next five years. They call her the barren queen, for she birthed only sons and no daughters. After all, there is no place for man in Scorpica. Will this child finally be the one she has waited for, or will another have to challenge her for her title? A greater problem arises yet, for across all five queendoms, as two girls are born, it will become known that they are to be the last females born to any for a very long time. A drought of daughters has begun.
Scorpica is the first novel in The Five Queendoms, and after Khara’s story plays out, various narrative threads run concurrently across the queendoms tracking the last two females and eventually revealing the reason behind the drought. There are Seekers from Arca who would hunt down all-magic users, there are those who would challenge queens, and there are those who desperately need to hide their identities or abilities.
The various narrative threads are populous with characters, but many could have done with some more page time to help the reader’s emotional investment in them. Point of view changes are frequent, and with the story moving fast, the tension and action are kept at the forefront, sometimes to the detriment of description. Nevertheless, the intricacies of the various magic systems and social hierarchies are explained well, and Macallister’s world holds great promise for future books in the series.