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From the Memory of Flames series, volume II

by Stephen Deas

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-451-46376-0
Publisher: ROC/Penguin

The brutal scheming continues in Book II of The Memory of Flames series (The Adamantine Palace, 2010), set in a world where king and queens enslave dragons with alchemical potions that deaden the creatures’ intelligence, telepathy and memories of their past lives.

Thanks to Prince Jehal’s employment of poisons, drugs and a few judicious murders, his lover Queen Zafir has been named Speaker, the influential arbiter of the nine realms and a title that Jehal hopes to eventually claim for himself. Zafir’s rule is none too secure, as she’s ineffective and tyrannical; plus, many nobles don’t believe in the guilt of Queen Shezira, whom Jehal’s framed for assassinating the previous Speaker. Zafir and Jehal’s alliance crumbles, due to her mistrust of his political motives and murderous jealousy of his pregnant wife (well deserved on both counts). Meanwhile, Snow, the white dragon awakened to her true nature, seeks to free the others of her kind, pursued both by her former masters and Semian, a vision-crazed dragon-knight who believes he’s destined to ride her. Keeping track of the players’ shifting allegiances is a full-time job and few characters are wholly likable, but teasing out their motivations is an intriguing puzzle. Who will be left standing (or flying) at the end of this series is anyone’s guess, and everyone is so busy setting fire to everyone else’s stronghold, it seems as if there won’t be much left to rule over when the ashes finally cool.

A fairly successful stab at viciously political fantasy.