The second in a fantasy series set in a heavily forested continent whose vitality depends on bloodthirsty nature spirits controlled by magically gifted women.
Six months after the events of The Queen of Blood (2016), Queen Daleina of Aratay’s troubles are far from over. Daleina still feels incredible survivor’s guilt about the coronation day massacre…and now she herself isn’t expected to survive very long. Daleina’s newly discovered fatal illness could claim her in mere months; worse, the blackouts it induces cause her to lose control of the spirits, who are then set free to slaughter. Daleina’s former lover, the healer Hamon, searches desperately for a cure, even turning to his estranged mother, a brilliant but sociopathic herbalist. To ensure Aratay’s security, Daleina must have an heir; but the strongest potential candidates were killed in the massacre, and most of the new candidates aren’t surviving their training. Meanwhile, a secret traitor threatens the palace, and Daleina’s former schoolmate, the insanely ambitious Queen Merecot of Semo, is preparing to invade. Daleina rests all her hope on one extremely powerful candidate: Naelin, a canny woodswoman and mother of two who can summon and control even the strongest spirits; the only problem is that she has absolutely no desire to be queen. Durst’s Renthia continues to fascinate with its very incongruity, juxtaposing idyllic villages and cities built among the trees and the personal journey of the female protagonists with the relentless brutality of the spirits and the ruthless machinations of humans. The result is both incredibly grim and charmingly heartwarming. However, the two books in the series are similar enough thematically and, in some spots, predictable enough that Durst will have to take care to avoid repetition in subsequent installments.
Still worth following, at least for now.