Charming fantasy novel about a lesbian couple

Reviewing: 

It took me a little while to warm to A Kingdom Lost, but once I did I found a lot to like in it. It's a story about two women in love, fighting a rebellion from two different countries. Proud, confident princess Katya is on the run with her family after her uncle seized the kingdom with sinister zombie-related magic. Quiet, intellectual Starbride is studying the same magic skills, and ends up leading the local insurgents against the usurper.

There's a lot to the book: our two leading ladies tell their stories in alternating chapters, and each of them have a whole cast of companions and a lot of shared history (this is the second book in the series). It makes the start of the story a bit frustrating, but as the two sides of the story get nearer and nearer together the switch between them gets more and more effective. Details from one another's stories start to show up in the others, messages get carried across the narrative divide... I ended up really glad I'd given the book another chance after the slow start.

The setting and the world of the story are nicely original: the two different cultures use kinds of magic drawn from the same source but have totally different ways of approaching it, and a long history of feuds based on that. Same sex relationships and marriages are totally normalised within the setting, too, and more common than straight ones.

There's something touching about the way each character explores the home of the other - Starbride is living in Katya's city of Marienne, and Katya riding through Starbride's nation of Allusia, and even as they plot their respective rebellions they're learning about one another's childhoods and culture and history. It's a nice device: the two don't talk for the first two thirds of the book, but they're very present in the others thoughts. Not in a static, angst-ridden way, either: Barbara Wright makes it clear they are one another's motivations, and that they've learnt from and inspired one another. It's adorable, and very refreshing for me: I've read a lot of stories with women pining for their lost man, and hardly any where they're not only missing a female lover but also drawing courage and inspiration from their memories.

I'd definitely recommend both this book and The Pyramid Waltz, the first book in the series.

Comments

Thanks for the review. a Kingdom Lost is the third book, not the second. The second is For Want if a Fiend. :)

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