Title: The Ikessar Falcon
Series: Chronicles of the Bitch Queen #2
Author: K.S. Villoso
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
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ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
K.S Villoso takes readers down a dark and treacherous path in this action-packed sequel to The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.
The spiral to madness begins with a single push.
Abandoned by her people, Queen Talyien’s quest takes a turn for the worst as she stumbles upon a plot deeper and more sinister than she could ever have imagined, one that will displace her king and see her son dead. The road home beckons, strewn with a tangled web of deceit and impossible horrors that unearth the nation’s true troubles – creatures from the dark, mad draggons, and men with their hearts hungry for power.
To save her land, Talyien must confront the myth others have built around her: Warlord Yeshin’s daughter, symbol of peace, warrior and queen, and everything she could never be.
The price of failure is steep. Her friends are few. And a nation carved by a murderer can only be destined for war.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
Well, it’s actually uneasy lies the head wears the crown, but I think the Bard will agree with me that the former fits this story better.
With more on the line for Queen Talyien, The Ikessar Falcon is even more intense and propulsive than its predecessor. It picks up immediately after the events of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, with Tali trapped in enemy territory desperate to go home to her own empire and her son Thanh.
K.S. Villoso expands the world she introduced, taking readers deeper into Tali’s world, one fraught with dangerous creatures, mad dragons, and unknown powers. I loved that we got more information about the mysterious agan, which was already touched on by the first book. There’s more to know about it, I’m pretty sure, but at least we learn a bit more about how it works and how it adds up to the sum of Tali’s many, many problems.
Characters introduced in the series opener again join Tali in her journey in this installment, with some who only played a minor role taking first book taking on more prominent parts. It’s something I’ve always appreciated in any story but more so in a Fantasy which tend to have a bigger cast. Villoso does a tremendous job playing with her characters, challenging them and throwing them into some really difficult situations. No one was spared, every character – from Tali to Khine, even Lo Bahn – was put through the wringer in this one, and it peeled back their layers, revealing more of what’s at the core of them. There was so much character growth in this one, but none more significant than Tali’s.
Queen Talyien remains the heart and soul of this story. By all means, she is still much like the Talyien readers met in The Wold of Oren-Yaro but somehow she is more vulnerable, more unsure of herself in this sequel. She is in precariously dangerous situation with all her problems boring down on her from all front. Tali is a multi-faceted characters and Villoso effectively showcases all her sides in this book: a mother fearing for her son’s safety, a queen grasping at her hold over her empire, a woman with wants and needs, a person flawed and imperfect who often makes mistakes but is trying her damndest to do what she thinks is best. She is relatable and understandable, and I just couldn’t help but feel for her even if I do disagree with some of her choices. Tali still hasn’t come fully to herself, and it would be so interesting to know how she fares in the next book knowing where this installment left her.
I totally loved this book. It’s quite honestly one of the best sequels read most recently. It took everything I loved from the first book, built on it and added a whole ton more – amazing wolrdbuilding, fully-formed characters, action that will leave you breathless, and a story that’ll draw you in from stat to finish. I definitely recommend this to everyone, especially if you love a whole lot of politics in your Fantasy.
K.S. VILLOSO writes speculative fiction with a focus on deeply personal themes and character-driven narratives. much of her work is inspired by her childhood in the slums of Taguig, Philippines. She is now living amid the forest and mountains with her husband, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.