I may have forgotten how to talk about books. I hope not, but let’s find out!
Kate Elliot’s Buried Heart, the final entry in her Court of Fives trilogy, marks an astounding culmination to an excellent trilogy. Building on the events of Court of Fives and Poisoned Blade, Buried Heart puts half-Efean half-Saroese athlete Jessamy in the middle of a war between her father’s people—the Saroese “Patrons” who rule Efea, and who have relegated the native Efeans to a state akin to slavery, the Saroese who’re invading as part of machinations among royalty—and the Efeans who want to take back their country, their history, and their gods.
Jessamy’s position is complicated. She’s in love with Kalliarkos, a Saroese prince who doesn’t want to be king—but Jess thinks that if he’s king, then he can change things in Efea. At least, that’s what she thinks until he actually becomes king.
Unfortunately for Jess and Kalliarkos, the problems in Saroese-ruled Efea run deeper than the ability of any single person to fix. Becoming king just put Kalliarkos in the middle of the snakepit he’s spent his whole life trying to escape. And caused Jess to realise that the only way forward for Efea, and for her, is to overthrow the Saroese Patrons entirely. That means overthrowing Kalliarkos, too.
Of course, first she’s going to have to survive.
Buried Heart is an accomplished epic fantasy that focuses on the individual costs of being torn between societies and between loyalties, and on the toll that colonialism exacts on the people who live under it. It’s a really good book, and it does things that epic fantasy really doesn’t do enough—like understand a revolution from the perspective of systems that need to be overthrown, rather than individual bad rulers that need to be replaced. It also went places that I really didn’t expect.
I really enjoyed it. Also, it has metal war spiders, weird athletic contests, cultural clashes, and interesting family dynamics. More, please?
P.C. Hodgell’s The Gates of Tagmeth, the latest novel in her long-running Chronicles of the Kencyrath series, came as a surprise to me. I didn’t realise it was out until a friend mentioned it on the internets—I’ve clearly been spoiled by all the publicists who send me press releases.
The Gates of Tagmeth follows The Sea of Time (2014). Much as I enjoyed the wild hijinks of The Sea of Time, I’m really happy to see The Gates of Tagmeth placing Jame—avatar of That-Which-Destroys, one of the faces of the Kencyr’s three-faced god—in a mediating role, one where she has to create things. And really happy to see The Gates of Tagmeth go some way towards resolving some of the dangling issues that loom between Jame and her brother Torisen, High Lord of the Kencyrath.
The Gates of Tagmeth is a fun romp, expanding Hodgell’s world and giving us more of Jame’s entertaining if haphazard approach to life and leadership. In the background, the looming conflict between the Kencyrath and the world-eating power of Perimal Darkling that has chased Jame’s people from world to world still lingers. One of these days maybe this series will reach a crisis point for that conflict, but in the meantime? I’m happy to just enjoy the ride.
My to-be-read pile is overwhelmingly large. I’m not even sure what’s in it right now, except that it might fall over and crush me at any moment… What are you guys reading lately? What are you looking forward to reading?
Liz Bourke is a cranky queer person who reads books. She holds a Ph.D in Classics from Trinity College, Dublin. Her first book, Sleeping With Monsters, a collection of reviews and criticism, is out now from Aqueduct Press. Find her at her blog, where she’s been known to talk about even more books thanks to her Patreon supporters. Or find her at her Twitter. She supports the work of the Irish Refugee Council and the Abortion Rights Campaign.