The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by KS Villoso
Orbit, pb, £8.99
Reviewed by John C. Adams
This new epic fantasy novel from one of Orbit’s emerging stars is the final book in the ‘Chronicles of the Bitch Queen’ trilogy. I wasn’t familiar with the first two books, but a handy summary before the action began brought me up to speed nicely.
Queen Talyien is the daughter of warlord Yeshin, who planned her marriage to the son of his archenemy as soon as Talyien was born to strengthen his hold on lands he regards as his own. Talyien and her husband Rai haven’t established any emotional rapport, and she has taken various lovers. One, the probable father of her illegitimate child, has been killed. The other, Khine, is alive and well, determined to protect Talyien from the circling dangers. Rai seems overwhelmed by his wife’s strong personality and unable to challenge her effectively for giving birth to another man’s son. His mother steps in to fill that void.
Talyien is imprisoned, but she is able to flee and spends many months in the hills with bandits, regrouping and planning her next moves. She is a likeable character facing many threats to her physical security. Despite the strain of this, she is blossoming and growing in confidence. She is no longer willing to accept that she is merely an object married off for her father’s interest, merely there to ensure his legacy of control over more lands than he managed.
I liked Talyien immensely. She was complex and flawed, but this simply rendered her more relatable. Her courage and determination impressed me throughout. The novel is written in the first person. While this sacrifices something in terms of action that could only have been shown through other perspectives, it meant that the reader saw Talyien’s emotional struggles in a raw and very direct way. I kept rooting for her right up until the end and personally found the novel’s conclusion satisfying.
Some of the passages where Talyien reflects on issues and events from the first two books didn’t speak to me as much as her current challenges. However, many readers will come to this novel having read the earlier ones in the trilogy. The tying together and reflection upon what had gone before made me want to learn more about the first two books.
Villoso’s writing style is exceptionally strong. There was a lot of dialogue, but this tends to be a feature of epic fantasy. The descriptive passages were well written, and the thoughts and feelings of the heroine were brought through powerfully. The presentation and editing were immaculate, the paper quality was lovely and thick. In short, since reading a print book is a physical journey as well as an emotional and intellectual one, it was a wonderful experience from start to finish.
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