She's sworn to the skull.
No wait; she's Sworn to the Skull.
Oh, see, I didn't even get around to doing a review or blurb of the first one, last year. That sort of thing is at the root of my re-embrace of the short, informal blog post about books; if I let myself get in my own head these will just start backlogging & the whole thing will backfire. So, okay, this series! I don't read a lot of epic fantasy. I figure most people assume that I do, because the sort of SF/F nerd I am usually gets painted with that brush, & I certainly have read plenty of epic fantasy...but it isn't my jam, not really. As a rule of thumb, if it is a big doorstop filled with made-up words with extra apostrophes & double consonants, I probably steer clear. That caveat given, I really like this series. It overcomes a lot of the stumbling blocks that epic fantasy can fall prey to, while giving you the big concept stuff like evil immortal Vulcans & creepy pain wizards that you have come to expect. The series follows the three children of a recently assassinated emperor as they each separately try to untangle the web of murder & politics they are suddenly mired in. One is a monk, another is special ops, & the third is minister of finance. Yeah, it's like that, & actually, you can sort of see some of the major successes in the epic fantasy market in each of their story lines. The monk, Kaden, is enmeshed in a cosmological plot, feeling very Steven Erikson; the SEAL is stuck making hard, violent choices in a way familiar to readers of George R. R. Martin; & the politician ends up negotiating witch-lords & religious zealots in a very Wheel of Time-y way. (An Oxford semi-colon? Is that a thing?) Not to mention there is a lot of interesting worldbuilding going on; do I detect someone's campaign research in the background? My one "complaint" is that this second volume is driven by dramatic tension, & after The Lumatere Chronicles, I'm feeling a little weary of that, personally, but that's just me at this moment, not a structural criticism. Anyhow, the "big bad" are basically evil Vulcans, like I mentioned, so that's pretty great.