So instead, I swallowed and murmured an oath that I would do everything it took to make his dreams become a reality … even if it meant facing my fears, if it meant walking the road laid out for me … if it meant becoming someone I was not …The Ikessar Falcon – K.S. Villoso
The Bitch Queen returns in The Ikessar Falcon, the action-packed sequel to K. S. Villoso’s acclaimed fantasy debut, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.
Abandoned by her people, Queen Talyien’s quest takes a turn for the worse as she stumbles upon a plot deeper and more sinister than she could have ever imagined, one that will displace her king and see her son dead. The road home beckons, strewn with a tangled web of deceit and unimaginable horrors – creatures from the dark, mad dragons and men with 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 for failure is steep. Her friends are few. And a nation carved by a murderer can only be destined for war.
Content Warnings: violence, body horror, death, gore, graphic threats of rape, suicide, murder, grief.
A big thank you to Caffeine Book Tours, Orbit, and K.S. Villoso for the opportunity to read an early copy of this book and to participate in this tour. This is no way impacts my review, or my opinions on the book.
You can follow the tour on social media through the hashtag #DethroneTheDragonlord, and see the other tour stops here.
Release Date: 24 September 2020
Sometimes you go into a book knowing your general levels of stress and wonder are going to be elevated. And sometimes, despite your best attempts at preparation, you are still thrown for a loop at every turn; awe, hurt feelings, and frustrations running wild. This was my experience with THE IKESSAR FALCON, an incredible continuance in the Chronicle of the Bitch Queen series.
Picking up soon after the events of THE WOLF OF OREN-YARO, THE IKESSAR FALCON sees Tali reckon with the position she has found herself in, and with the very few options she has moving forward. Still away from home, her legacy being attacked from all sides, and with her son’s life under threat, Tali embarks on an exapansive journey, introducing us to new parts of her world, to be the Bitch Queen she was always made to be, in the name of survival.
So much of what I enjoyed from THE WOLF OF OREN-YARO is held on to in this story. The writing style is still filled with wit and humour, and is capable of producing clear imagery. The world is still a bit of a mess being run by greedy, messy people who could care less about those who don’t elevate their power. Tali is still being put through the ringer. A nice addition to that is that the other characters are put through it as well, which hurts my feelings but also makes me feel better that Tali is less alone in all of it. Everything we are introduced to in this story builds on the lore and worldbuilding that we already know, increasing the stakes and complicating the playing field.
The story follows a quick pace packed with action, deceit, lore, complex relationships, and a smattering of dragons. Villoso once again does an excellent job of balancing exciting fight scenes, tense political interactions, and softer personal moments. I experienced multiple moments of pure frustration at all the obstacles our cast of characters had to face, accompanied with admiration at the ways they consistently managed to overcome them. Layered with acts of revenge, betrayal, desperation, devotion, and fear, this series continues to cement itself as a personal favourite.
While the first book spent time revealing the shortcomings of Tali’s teachings and rule, THE IKESSAR FALCON sees her struggle with the decision of who she wants to be – the queen she wants to be, outside of the weight of her father’s legacy, and the expectations of the warlords. Tali spends a lot of time facing her past and dealing with the outcome of every decision made during and before her rule, by her and her predecessors. The time for hesitation and unwavering trust has passed. No longer relying on the safety and loyalty her titile should have granted her, Tali charges into every situation head on, with more confidence, trying her best to make the right choice, the smart choice.
I will probably take the time to create a separate post so I can truly delve into the personal relationships of this series, but I will say I am continuously floored by how well Villoso portrays messy relationships between hurt people who ultimately put aside their feelings for the greater good yet are also slightly oblivious to how greatly that impacts their choices and actions, and as a result the people and situations surrounding them. The balance of messy characters doing their best and expansive world building in this series is what gives it a special place in my heart. That and the fact that the villain had a grand total of ~5% page time and still managed to put me on edge throughout the entire story.
I was so enraptured by the events of this story, that I wanted to drag it out forever to fully wrap my head around all that happened. It continues to set up what is sure to be a thrilling, and stressful, conclusion. I am excited to see the path Tali chooses to ensure the survival of her loved ones, to see the carnage that is encroaching ever close to the nation of Jin-Sayeng. I mentioned in my review of THE WOLF OF OREN-YARO that reading the story felt like a swift kick to the teeth, and THE IKESSAR FALCON is no different. I was left feeling just as battered and bruised as the characters and yet, I cannot help but impatiently wait for more.
“But Queen Talyien and Tali are different edges of the same sword – one a mask, the other a woman”
“I was the Jewel of Jin-Sayeng, a symbol of peace, a double-edged sword. I wielded enough power to send men runnig for the door or falling at my feet – an army of ten thousand, my father’s bloody legacy around me like a shawl.”
“But mistakes beget mistakes, and fairy tales turn into nightmares”
“My people embraced doom like warriors, but I was wondering inwarldy if it was still something to be proud of. Pride can only get you so far.”
“But it is difficult to grasp the weight of our own actions, to make sense of the ripples our every decision makes. It is why we hurt and continue to get hurt; how we can plunge a knife int o someone, wash the blood off, and pretend it didn’t happen.”
As these are taken from the e-ARC I read, some quotes are subject to change upon publication.
About the Author:
K.S. Villoso was born in a dank hospital on an afternoon in Albay, Philippines, and things have generally been okay since then. After spending most of her childhood in a slum area in Taguig (where she dodged death-defying traffic, ate questionable food, and fell into open-pit sewers more often than one ought to), she and her family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, where they spent the better part of two decades trying to chase the North American Dream. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her family, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.