“Revolutionaries…didn’t consider the paperwork involved when they were plotting their reforms; they just left it to people like me to sort out the details.”
In this riveting fantasy sequel, Soraya Gamo is only 19, but, as the ex-betrothed of the ex-king, she serves on the Ruling Council, struggling to keep Qilara’s two peoples—the original inhabitants, who have dark hair and olive skin, and their fairer newly-emancipated slaves—free, fed, and away from each other’s throats. But the fledgling government, dependent on her family’s rapidly diminishing wealth, is riven by jealousy and mistrust. Assassination attempts leave Soraya alone with the colleague who most despises her to cope with political disasters, financial crises, and an incipient countercoup…that attempts to make her queen. While overstuffed with backstory, Soraya’s compelling narration makes the minutiae of management as thrilling as the betrayals, murders, and desperate gambits propelling the plot. Arrogant, calculating, and suspicious, Soraya isn’t easy to like; but her ferocious intelligence, ruthless discipline, and wry humor command respect, and her clumsy kindness and longing for affection evoke sympathy. Without ever diminishing the horrors of slavery, her emotional scars reveal how entrenched sexism and classism are also corrosive. Even as she sacrifices everything she once valued, Soraya’s hard-won independence feels triumphant; similarly, readers will cheer Qilara’s stumbling progress and hope for future updates.
A fine balance of political intrigue, relationship drama, and thoughtful characterization. (Fantasy. 12-18)