What begins as a typical revenge story veers into an epic tale of invasion, civil war, and divine incursion in the apparent first of a series by a pseudonymous author.
More than 20 years ago, Gen. Cobalt Zosia, her Five Villains, and her peasant army assassinated King Kaldruut of the Crimson Empire and placed Zosia on the throne. When the nobles and the merchants actively sabotaged her efforts to create a more equitable society, she faked her death, married a courtesan, and lived a happy, peaceful life in the rural village of Kypck…until a brash, inexperienced colonel ordered his regiment to slaughter everyone in Kypck except for her. Zosia immediately embarks upon a campaign against the one she’s sure is responsible—the current ruler, Queen Indsorith. But as the Crimson Empire faces conflict between the queen and the power-hungry Church of the Burnished Chain, unrest with a rival empire, and a new outlaw army headed by a rebellious princess posing as Zosia, can the aging bandit really be sure as to the identity of her foe? The famous warrior violently forced out of retirement and thrust into renewed conflict has been done many times and in many genres, and for a good portion of the book, there seems to be little to distinguish this from its predecessors. But it gradually becomes clear that Marshall is playing a wider and more interesting game. Ultimately, Zosia isn’t truly the protagonist (or at least, not the only one) nor the primary catalyst for events, which lends the story greater potential, both here and in future volumes.
A promising start.