As I mentioned last time around, Rowena Cory Daniells is an author I've had my eye on for a while now, ever since Besieged (the first book in her Outcast Chronicles) made my Waiting on Wednesday list back in May. So, when she reached out to me last month to ask if I'd be interested in reviewing both trilogies, I jumped at the chance.
The Uncrowned King is the second instalment of her King Rolen's Kin trilogy, traditionally the weakest part of any trilogy. With the story already established, and the conclusion yet to come, the middle volume could be forgiven if it didn't really move the story forward. Fortunately, there's enough going on here to make it just as compelling a read as the first. What's more, since we already have an attachment to the characters, their perils and triumphs have more of an emotional impact. There were at least two occasions where excitement nearly had me jumping out of my seat, and one notable occasion where I found myself seething over a betrayal.
At its essence, this is the story of a ruling family being torn apart, forced to struggle their way back from exile and ruin to rescue their kingdom. Byren, by far, faces the toughest challenge, despite the fact that his journey seems like it should be so easy. Betrayed, wounded, and touched by the power of Affinity, he is a man we watch losing all hope, yet still struggling forward. Fyn, as I suspected (indeed, hoped) comes into his own as a hero who can stand proudly beside his brother. His journey is the most wondrous of the three, full of surprises for both him and the reader. As for Piro, even though she's largely left to hide, flee, and disguise herself against her enemies, she is clearly set up to have a large role to play in the final volume.
We do get to see much more of the villains in this instalment, with Cobalt revealing his true colours, but I will say no more on that subject for fear of spoilers.
This volume doesn't add much to the world-building begun in The King's Bastard, but it does smartly develop what's already been established. We learn more about the Affinity-touched beasts roaming the countryside, and get a deeper glimpse into the mythology and religious structure of the kingdom. We don't actually get to see Merofynia (not yet, at least), but we do see more of its dark side - one full of slavery, renegade power workers, and assassins.
Fast-paced, just as engaging, and (much to my relief) absent the convenient delays and lapses of memory that bothered me about the first volume, this is another good, solid, page-turning read that's sure to satisfy fans of traditional fantasy. Bring on The Usurper and let's see how (or, perhaps, if) justice can prevail!