Title: Queen of Fire
Author: Anthony Ryan
Genre: Fantasy / Adventure / War
Publication date: 2015
After fighting back from the brink of death, Queen Lyrna is determined to repel the invading Volarian army and regain the independence of the Unified Realm. Except, to accomplish her goals, she must do more than rally her loyal supporters. She must align herself with forces she once found repugnant—those who possess the strange and varied gifts of the Dark—and take the war to her enemy’s doorstep.
Victory rests on the shoulders of Vaelin Al Sorna, now named Battle Lord of the Realm. However, his path is riddled with difficulties. For the Volarian enemy has a new weapon on their side, one that Vaelin must destroy if the Realm is to prevail—a mysterious Ally with the ability to grant unnaturally long life to her servants. And defeating one who cannot be killed is a nearly impossible feat, especially when Vaelin’s blood-song, the mystical power which has made him the epic fighter he is, has gone ominously silent…
When I started the first book of the Raven’s Shadow series by Anthony Ryan, Blood Song, I wasn’t sure where the story was going and if I wanted to be on that journey. The style was good; the story was interesting but there was too much focus on fighting, fighting, and fighting. For sure, a fantasy story without a war or fighting is sacrilege, but Ryan took it to another level.
Book three, Queen of Fire, is the culmination of all that fighting. And while about 40% of the whole book is planning battles, talking about battles, and doing battles, there is an enormous part that focuses on proper world building, exploring lore, and concluding storylines. It all fell into place, better than I could have hoped for. Anyway, we’ll get to that part in a bit.
Queen of Fire follows Vaelin, Reva, Lyrna and Frentis in their separate journeys to the end goal – Volar. After the Volarian empire tries to conquer the Unified Kingdom and fails, Queen Lyrna is determined not only to repel the invaders but to make sure they never even think of raising a weapon against her kingdom and her people. So she sails, along with the biggest army her Unified kingdom has ever gathered, to Volar.
Vaelin, our main protagonist, goes his separate way, which inevitably ends in Volar, of course. While with Lyrna we get blood, death, mayhem, and more fighting than we could handle, Vaelin’s journey takes him through the harshest of weather (literally), through the hardest of people, only for him to emerge again with an army and pretty much save the entire world. And as the saying goes, ‘The hero is not the one that wins the prize, it’s the one that pays the price.’ And Vaelin pays a lot, so much that I almost cried for him (and I don’t cry often). I hate|love how authors take their characters through the worst of ordeals.
I won’t go into details for each of the main POV characters, they had their own hardships and successes, and the diversity they brought to the story was fresh and entertaining – so much that I could stomach through more battles than I had read about in my whole life. Those people sure love to fight and murder each other.
And while I totally loved reading the book and how it tied all the pretty knots in a perfect ribbon, there were a few things that made me sigh and shake my head.
First thing, most of the characters turned into deus ex machina. Reva is the first one that comes to mind. She had already become a half-divine reluctant leader in the previous book. Now she is literally the luckiest woman in the world with all kinds of fighting powers. She can fight (better than Vaelin, as it is speculated, even though he had spent his whole life learning how to fight) with a knife, sword, bow, spear, and probably a broom or a napkin. She never seems to get hurt, even though she almost drowns once and even then I didn’t feel dangerous. With the others, I was sometimes left wondering if they would live by the time the author returned to their POV (yeah, Anthony Ryan loves to end his chapters in the most intense moments). But with Reva I knew she would damn live to see the end. Frentis was just a bit better, but still beyond believable. At some point, I felt like Ryan was trying to make them all gods worthy of worship – as if some new faith was going to emerge after the end of the war with them in the middle of it.
The other thing that threw me off was the culmination. It was tense; it was interesting, and it was good BUT it felt rushed. After spending hundreds of pages reading about those people, their hardships, and adventures, it felt anticlimactic to resolve the entire thing in the span of 10 pages. Maybe it is just me but a lot of things about the Ally, the Weaver, and the Memory stones remain shrouded in mystery and I would have loved for some answers.
Anyway, I really did love Queen of Fire so I’ll give it 5/5 rating. It was a great ending of a brilliant fantasy series. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves battles, doesn’t mind coarse language and can handle long books (because let’s face it, 500-600 pages per book is an overwhelming read). I just found out there are more books based on that world so you’ll probably get their reviews sometimes in the near future.
What about you? What rating would you give? What are your thoughts and takes on Queen of Fire?