Alright, alright. I know that I said I’d take some time away from blog tours and focus on my own writing this year. Yes, I already broke that promise when I joined Kate’s Spellhacker’s blog tour but after that I resolved not to participate in any more, even as Caffeine Book Tours posted their lineup and the upcoming titles beckoned me to surrender.
Obviously, when CBT announced that they were doing a HUGE blog tour for The Ikessar Falcon, not even the sharpest of blades could have stopped me from signing up. The Ikessar Falcon’s the sequel to one of my favorite high fantasy books of all time, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro. I had to join the tour.
If you read the first book of the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, you’d understand my visceral need to know what happens next to Queen Talyien. When we last saw her, she was trapped in a foreign land, abandoned by her own people, entangled in a political scandal that could very well start a war, and betrayed by her husband Prince Rayyel. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong for Tali in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro. How could the sequel possibly make things worse for her?
The Ikessar Falcon by K.S. Villoso
The spiral to madness begins with a single push.
Abandoned by her people, Queen Talyien’s quest takes a turn for the worst as she stumbles upon a plot deeper and more sinister than she could have ever imagined, one that will displace her king and see her son dead. The road home beckons, strewn with a tangled web of deceit and impossible horrors that unearth the nation’s true troubles – creatures from the dark, mad dragons, and men with hearts hungry for power.
To save her land, Talyien must confront the myth others have built around her: Warlord Yeshin’s daughter, symbol of peace, warrior and queen, and everything she could never be.
The price of failure is steep. Her friends are few. And a nation carved by a murderer can only be destined for war.
(Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from Orbit Books and Caffeine Book Tours in exchange for an honest review)
If I were to come up with an alternate title for this sequel it would be:
Wow, The Ikessar Falcon was intense. All the action, adventure, suspense and magic that I loved in the first book was amped up to about a hundred in this sequel. Seriously, Tali can’t even turn a corner without meeting the sharp tip of a sword or the fiery breath of a dragon. I had to put down this book several times and take a deep breath, calming myself for Tali’s sake. It’s wild how The Ikessar Falcon had me so riveted.
While The Wolf of Oren-Yaro had plenty of flashbacks to Tali’s childhood and subsequent relationship with Rayyel, The Ikessar Falcon is more focused on the present. Understandable because there’s so much more happening in the main plot of the story. Tali has more enemies that pose a serious threat to not only her and her son’s life but also to her country’s fate.
While her foes keep growing in number, Tali also gets more reliable and trustworthy friends. And if not friends then at least allies. And with everything literally falling apart for Tali, she needed all the allies she could get.
The first book trapped Tali in a foreign, volatile country, stripped of her crown and power. The Ikessar Falcon has Tali returned to her lands but just barely holding on to her crown and her titles, with even less power and more enemies than before.
Overall, I give this book five wild, fire-breathing dragons out of five. The story was great, the writing was fantastic, and the characters were all deeply human and flawed.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the third and final book but, honestly, I’m scared. But also intrigued.
I have A LOT of feelings for this book and I want to talk about the many things that made the story so great but I also don’t want to spoil anyone. In the interest of keeping this review spoiler-free, I’m just going to give a brief run-down on my favorite aspects of The Ikessar Falcon.
As I alluded earlier, Tali’s enemies surround her in every corner in this sequel. There’s so much danger and deception all around that Talyien is literally trapped no matter where she goes or who she approaches. Everyone has their own agenda and even the most sympathetic of allies turn out to serve their own interests more than Jin-Sayeng’s.
Because of so many snakes and outright monsters around her, Tali’s pushed to do all sorts of risky things. She really earned her title as the bitch queen.
A More Human Rayyel
I despised Rayyel in the first book. He was so distant and cold, not to mention outrageously irrational, no matter how much he may have claimed to be acting purely on logic. Granted, I may have viewed him that way because of Tali’s own perspective.
In this sequel, we do get more of Rai and at first I was so eager to just keep on hating him for what he did (and continues to do) but the more he’s in the story, the more I learned about him. He’s actually human, surprisingly. Rayyel’s as vulnerable and as unsure as Tali. It was a painful realization for me when I actually sympathized with the guy. I still didn’t like him and I enjoyed seeing him all awkward and uncomfortable around Tali’s crew. But I couldn’t hate him anymore. Damn.
One of my favorite parts of a story is the magic system and this trilogy’s magic is particularly interesting. It’s obscure and dangerous, powerful yet costly. The sequel explores the agan (this world’s magic) and the more we learn about it, the more threatening it seems. Though that may be because a lot of powerful characters in the book abuse agan, refusing to acknowledge the consequences of such magic.
It’s a well done magic system that I suspect we’ll explore even more in the third book.
Strong Supporting Characters
Finally, one of the brightest highlights of this book were the minor characters that Talyien gets to know. They’re not just names on a page but actual, breathing people with their own motives and faults. They added a dimension to the story that made me emotionally invested in Tali’s world.
Obviously, my bias is Khine Lamang, the lovable conman who was the first person to help Tali in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro. Though he’s put through a lot in this sequel, his sense of humor and street smarts are still welcome respite from the terrors Talyien has to face.
Agos also plays a bigger role in the sequel. We learn just how complicated yet astonishingly single-minded this man is. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Agos, if I’m honest. He’s interesting, to say the least.
Sequels are often pretty difficult, or at least tricky, to get right. They’re the middle books of a trilogy and are often burdened with not just following an explosive first book but also expositing the main plot of the trilogy that the third book will wrap up. Sequels are the most likely to flop because of all the expectations people have for them.
The Ikessar Falcon not only delivers as a sequel worthy of the Bitch Queen, it’s also a strong book by itself. It ends in such a perilous cliffhanger that the reader will have no choice but to pick up the last book when it comes out.
About the Author
K.S. Villoso was born in a dank hospital on an afternoon in Albay, Philippines, and things have generally been okay since then. After spending most of her childhood in a slum area in Taguig (where she dodged death-defying traffic, ate questionable food, and fell into open-pit sewers more often than one ought to), she and her family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, where they spent the better part of two decades trying to chase the North American Dream. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her family, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.
Check out the rest of The Ikessar Falcon tour stops!