A Tyranny of Queens is the second book in the 2-part series The Manifold Worlds by Australian essayist, blogger, reviewer, poet and author Foz Meadows. In it, we continue the tale of Saffron Coulter, as she comes to terms with the aftermath of returning home and the consequences of that. We also look back in on events in Kena, which continue to develop without her. A fantastic finish to the story, I enjoyed it even more than the first book. If you enjoyed book 1, absolutely pick up 2. If you haven’t read them at all yet, you’re really missing out.
Saffron Coulter has returned from the fantasy kingdom of Kena. Threatened with a stay in psychiatric care, Saffron has to make a choice: to forget about Kena and fit back into the life she’s outgrown, or pit herself against everything she’s ever known and everyone she loves.
Meanwhile in Kena, Gwen is increasingly troubled by the absence of Leoden, cruel ruler of the kingdom, and his plans for the captive worldwalkers, while Yena, still in Veksh, must confront the deposed Kadeja. What is their endgame? Who can they trust? And what will happen when Leoden returns?
NOTE: THIS REVIEW INCLUDES SOME MINOR PLOT SPOILERS FOR ‘AN ACCIDENT OF STARS’ TO READ THE REVIEW OF BOOK 1, GO HERE
So yeah…that was a very good book with a very good ending. I’ve found sometimes that duologies can feel like trilogies that got squished together and either feel like they have no room for middle action, or that the second book pacing has to rocket along to get to the ending in time. A Tyranny of Queens conversely, landed perfectly. There was time enough for some fantastic plot development, the two disparate story threads were woven together without feeling rushed or cramped, and it all culminated in a wonderful ending. As trite as it is to call attention to the addiction to trilogies that it seemed like SFF had through the 90s and early 00s, it is still nice to see a bit of a shift towards a story being as long as it needs to be, whether it be 1, 2, 3, or 10. This story worked really well as a duology, and while I’d love to read more novels in this setting, I feel like I’d probably want the story to jump a couple years.
Speaking of the story, I just want to *chef kiss*. By the end of book one, it felt like I had pretty much the whole plot of the second book sussed out. Evil jerk guy is going to be an evil jerk, try to make his evil plan come to fruition, hooray we’ll stop the evil jerk somehow. The combination of my subverted expectations and some entirely unexpected story development conspired to bump what was already going to be a solid book into a really great one. Meadows has opened up the possibility of an entire series of novels now, maybe even a shared fiction world after the fashion of the Forgotten Realms. I would love to see more done with the multiverse that finally gets explored beyond being mentioned in passing.
Saffron’s development as a character also felt extremely well done and realistic, and her internal struggles both coming to terms with being home and all of the (sometimes gut wrenching, always extremely effecting) consequences of being back, and later her struggle to reconcile things she’d been told and taught with what she was experiencing absolutely hit the mark and added a lot of depth to what was going on. She was already a very real character, but she took on new life here. Sadly through a lot of adversity, but that’s what makes a driving plot.
It’s always a little awkward reviewing later books in a series. All the fundamental elements of characterization, pacing, plot, setting etc are just as good as they were in book one where I addressed them directly. There’s not much new to add besides “Yes, still very good” and you want even less to touch on the plot because it spoils the earlier books, so we’ll leave it on the shorter side. A Tyranny of Queens was great, I enjoyed it highly, more than the first book. The quality of this duology has definitely sold me on any other novels Foz Meadows cares to publish in SFF. You should definitely check out An Accident of Stars and this wonderful duology.
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