The Queen of Raiders by Sarah Kozloff
The Queen of Raiders (2020) is Sarah Kozloff’s second installment in her NINE REALMS series. In my review of book one, A Queen in Hiding, I used words like “nice,” “serviceable,” “pleasurable,” “solid,” and “satisfying,” eventually closing with “I’m hoping for more as I keep going.” Unfortunately, I can’t say I got the “more” I was looking for, but the series does remain, well, solidly satisfying.
The story picks up where book one ended (I’m going to assume you’ve read it) and mostly follows two main characters: Cerulia, the queen in exile, as she tries to escape Lord Marwyck’s attempt to track her down and capture/kill her to cement his usurpation of Weirandale; and Thalen, who executes the idea he had at the end of book one of using guerilla attacks in Oromondo to force them to bring their occupying army back home.
Eventually, the two stories merge in Oromondo and Cerulia and Thalen team up against the Oros. Other chapters, fewer in number, follow secondary characters such as the general of the Oro invading army, Lord Matwyck’s son (far different from his villainous father), an agent of the gods, and a few others.
As with A Queen in Hiding, Kozloff presents a smoothly flowing narrative despite the frequents shifts in point-of-view and setting.
I’d also say she improves on the first book’s plot by relying less on coincidence or convenience, save for one plot point. My only complaint really about the plot is that it all comes a bit too easily to the characters. That’s not to say there aren’t setbacks or deaths in The Queen of Raiders, but they feel like minor blips and never really raise the tension much if at all or land with any true emotional effect (I’ll admit, as well, that Kozloff suffered a bit from this being one of several recent books that had characters crossing high-altitude mountains and/or snowy wastelands with a level of comfort that is just annoying to anyone who has been at such altitudes, or worse, seen rain/snow at that height).
Both Thalen and Cerulia remain likeable characters one doesn’t mind spending time with, if not all that compelling; I’m not sure they’re not overshadowed by some of the animal characters. There’s a moment where Cerulia, who has been on the run under assumed names for some time, notes, “I’ve become skilled at playacting, but I’m getting confused as to who I really am.” It’s the kind of complicated, introspective, “deepening” moment I would have liked to have seen more of.
Kozloff does enough to keep me going on to book three, A Broken Queen, but once again, I’m left hoping to see more.