Wednesday, June 21, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows (Manifest Worlds #2)

Long Review (with SPOILERS for An Accident of Stars) after the Jump:  Do not read the rest of this review if you have not read an Accident of Stars.

As per my last review, I loved An Accident of Stars for both its terrific characters, but as well for the interesting plot.  That book ended on some pretty major cliffhangers, as well as the death of maybe the book's best character.  A Tyranny of Queens is not just that book's sequel, but it seems to be its conclusion as well - I'm not sure if Meadows plans on continuing writing books in this universe, but regardless this book wraps up pretty much ALL of the loose ends left by the first book.

Unfortunately, how it does so....didn't work at all for me, and was very frustrating.  A major part of the plot of this one involves a reveal about the natures of the two big antagonists from book 1 that reverses all we've been told about one of these two antagonists while making the other antagonist into a bigger and darker threat.  The problem is that well, this kind of comes out of nowhere.
Quick Plot Summary (again, spoilers for book 1):
Safi is back on Earth but quickly finds herself out of place in a world that once again doesn't take her concerns seriously, and strives to get back.  But she in getting back, she'll find herself alongside the dangerous Leoden, now on the run in a different strange world.  But is Leoden really as evil as he seems?

Meanwhile, Yena finds herself in Veksh undergoing a dangerous trial in order to follow Zech's legacy, and to determine what really was going on with Kadeja.  At the same time Gwen and the others try to figure out why Leoden and Kadeja had imprisoned so many world walkers and what has been done to them.  And a mysterious mage named Naruet finds himself involved in everything, as his efforts to prove his actions previously helping Leoden weren't for evil bring people together to possibly find the truth.  A truth that could spell the end for all of Kena.

Again, the plot doesn't work at all for me.  The book attempts to turn the antagonists' intentions and actions from book 1 on their head, and well, I've kind of skimmed back through book 1 again after reading this one, and it just isn't consistent at all with that reading.  It reads like a bad retcon decided after book 1 was completed, and it just doesn't work at all.

What do I mean by this?  Well, listen, a plot twist shouldn't necessarily be predictable by definition - it can be and it can work if predictable, but twists generally are designed to have impact by NOT being predictable.  But the twists need to make sense given the context of what came before and not be out of the blue.  A good twist is one where you can go back to what came before and suddenly read what is there in a different light, and it still works.  So for example, if one character who seems to be a bad guy is revealed to have different possibly not bad intentions for his actions, well, you should be able to see those new intentions in those prior actions.  If one bad guy who seemed to have selfish and minorly evil motivations for his actions is in fact the real bad guy behind it all, well, again that should be visible on a reread.

The problem with A Tyranny of Queens is that reveals of these types form a major backbone of the plot, and they are not consistent with what happens previously in this series at all. And given how this book isn't a new plot but really the conclusion to the plotlines from the first book, that's a MAJOR problem I couldn't get past.

The major characters are mostly still great: Safi, Gwen, and Luy are still strong and great characters to read, and Yena, who replaces Zechalia as a POV character, is terrific to really get to know.  But the book doesn't really have a replacement for Viya (who is still here but to the side) and the new character Naruet doesn't get enough time to make me care about him.  There's one point where Naruet reveals part of his gender/sexual identity in a manner similar-esque to that of Yena in book 1, but it's just kind of out of the blue and that's practically all we get to know about him.

This book wraps up all cliffhangers and does end on a truly joyous note that almost makes up for its flaws, but unfortunately doesn't quite do that.  It does make me hope that we see more books in this universe, particularly following further adventures of Safi and Yena, but I don't know if we will.  Alas, this book is a real let down after the greatness of its predecessor.

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