Queen of Demons is the second book in the Lord of the Isles series, printed in 1998. David Drake continues to show that he knows his craft, with this sequel giving a suitably dramatic follow-up to the beginning of the epic. This time I wasn’t skeptical at all, and I was right not to be. That musty scent of genuine historic fantasy setting, cobbled together from the corpses of bits of real history, takes life once more.
I’m just going to assume that you already read my review of the first book in the series. If you didn’t, you probably don’t understand the must reference I made above the break. But if you did (including the spolier section, sorry), you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I was right to have been worried about how Drake would get things moving again.
Fortunately, the call to adventure is strong with this one. The characters quickly get off their asses and get into trouble, just like they’re supposed to do. In fact, they stay in trouble for pretty much the entirety of the book, with your perspective jumping around to catch the most interesting parts of the action wherever it happens to be. I appreciate Drake’s willingness to move our perspective to wherever he feels is appropriate, whenever he feels it appropriate. I appreciate it even more given that he seems to be quite good at it.
I continue to be glad that I picked up the series, and have already ordered the next one from the library. If you like epic fantasy and are down with well written stories that skillfully embrace well known tropes, check it out yourself! I’m pretty sure you’ll be happy that you did.
Next, we have:
*Mild and Vague Spoilers*
Drake uses close variations on the Hero’s Journey to tell his story, giving every (nearly every?) main character their own journey of sorts. Unfortunately, he also falls into the trap of using the Damsel in Distress once again with one of the same characters that he used last time. Possibly two of the same characters, though the other one is so brief and minor that it’s more of an honorable mention. I wouldn’t nag about this so much if it weren’t for the fact that an otherwise perfectly competent heroine has now been rescued twice (by the same fellow, no less). On the plus side, one of the other perfectly competent heroines who was rescued last time gets to be a BAMF this time. I mean, she was last time too, except when she was given the Damsel card.
Also, Drake totally pulled a Monster-of-the-week teaser at the end of this book. I expect that the nasty thing showcased there will be the central foe of the next book, but as much as I like knowing that something evil awaits our heroes, I’d like the foreshadowing to be a bit more… subtle. Or worked into the background. Or something other than “next time on Dragon Ball Z.”
No doubt, as good as he is, Drake will work the threat into the background over the course of book three. Or maybe I’m wrong to doubt that he’d resurrect the villain of book one so soon. But I wish it weren’t so… sudden.