fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Beth Bernobich Queen's HuntQueen’s Hunt by Beth Bernobich

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Beth Bernobich’s first book, Passion Play, a combination of having received it unasked-for and its romance-like cover. While it had its flaws, I found the main characters, Ilse and Kosenmark, intriguing and captivating both individually and with regard to their burgeoning relationship. In the end I gave it four stars and said in my review that I looked forward to its follow-up. That sequel, Queen’s Hunt, recently arrived in my mailbox — expected this time, but unfortunately, still a bit of a surprise upon reading as I found it a disappointing continuation of the story.

Ilse and Kosenmark continue to work for what they see as the benefit of their country, Veraene, though it puts them at odds with their king and especially his mage advisor. It also makes them adversaries of Veraene’s enemy, the centuries-old and quite powerful King Dzavek. The source of his power, and of their contention, are the three Jewels of Lir, powerful magical tools which were lost long ago. Dzavek is in possession of one and Ilse’s search for the others brings her into contact with Valara, a stranger from another land who has somehow come into possession of Lir’s emerald. Ilse continues to seek the third jewel while trying to determine if this new player is friend or foe. Meanwhile, Kosenmark continues his shadow politics back home and has his own stranger to deal with — a new hire who is not at all what/who he purports to be.

To be honest, I found it a struggle to finish Queen’s Hunt. Whereas I enjoyed the slow unfolding of Passion Play‘s plot and character relationships, here the plot’s slow pace detracted from the reading experience, with characters either too static or traveling from place to place only to decide to travel somewhere else, with too little happening besides the travel itself. While I had a sense that the relationship between Ilse and Valara was meant to replace the tension created by the growing relationship between Ilse and Kosenmark in the first book, it failed to deliver on that score.

As for Kosenmark and Ilse themselves, separated as they are for the vast majority of the novel, their relationship fails to add much to the story and even when together it feels more perfunctorily referenced than conveying a true sense of heat or passion.

The conflict in terms of finding the jewels and preventing Dzavek from doing the same is at first too removed and abstract, and in the end resolved far too quickly and easily, making me wonder what the fuss was all about in the first place. The same holds true for their other major enemy, their king’s advisor-mage, who makes only a brief appearance and is pretty ineffective before being pretty much sidelined for the rest of the story. With the two villains pretty toothless, the quest for the jewels needed to really ratchet up the suspense and excitement but did not. These problems were compounded by a backstory involving past lives, with all these characters interacting with each other in various prior incarnations (one for example, was another’s brother, one another’s lover). The concept itself isn’t a bad one, but it rarely felt an organic part of the story and only occasionally enhanced the emotional impact of a scene. (On a sidenote, see Katharine Kerr‘s DEVERRY series for an excellent execution of this idea).

The end result of all this is that Queen’s Hunt had many of the same flaws as Passion Play but unfortunately lacked the strong points in the first book that more than compensated for its weaknesses. It was, as I said at the outset, a disappointing read, though not to the point where I won’t give Bernobich’s next one a try in hopes that she returns to the strengths of Passion Play while avoiding the issues that have plagued both books so far. At this point, I’d recommend holding off to see how this series plays out.

River of Souls (Erythandra) — (2010-2015) Publisher: The daughter of one of Melnek’s more prominent merchants, Ilse Zhalina has lived most of her life surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege. She has wanted for nothing and many would consider her lot a most happy one. But there are dark secrets even in the best of families and Isle and the women in her family have learned that to be beautiful and silent is the best way to survive. However, when Ilse fianlly meets the colleague of her father’s selected to marry her, she realizes that this man would lock in her a gilded cage. In her soul, she knows he is far crueler and more deadly than her father could ever be. Ilse chooses to run from this life. Her choice will have devastating consequences and she will never be the same. But she will meet Raul Kosenmark, a man of mystery who is the master of one of the land’s most notorious pleasure houses and who is, as Ilse discovers, a puppetmaster of a different sort altogether. Together they will embark on a journey that will reshape their world. Lush fantasy. Wild magic. Political intrigue and the games of seduction and treachery to gain control of a kingdom. PASSION PLAY is all of these and more. It is the journey of a woman who must conquer her passions in order to win all that she desires.

Beth Bernobich Erythandra 1. Passion Play Beth Bernobich Erythandra 1. Passion Play 2. Queen's Hunt Beth Bernobich Allegiance


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  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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