The Ikessar Falcon is book 2 of K.S. Villoso’s Annals of the Bitch Queen. It picks up not long after the events of The Wolf of Oren-yaro, and while it’s still told from the same perspective, it is very different from its predecessor in terms of both scope and tone. No longer is everything about what Queen Talyien can lose: the stakes have been raised. It isn’t just her marriage on the line, but also her son, her people, and her empire.
Stuck on the opposite side of the sea to her people, Tali must make the perilous journey across the lands and oceans to return to Jin-Sayang. Along the way, she learns a lot about herself and her people. The journey involves several of the key characters from book 1, and we get the opportunity to see more of them.
We also learn a lot more about the world the series is set in. The worldbuilding is really well done, and as the characters travel it allows us to see the diverse cultures found in the different cities and towns. Sometimes the differences are smaller and more nuanced, and sometimes they stand out and loudly proclaim themselves. There’s also more about the mysterious Agan, and the magical phenomenon it can create, which includes but isn’t limited to magic, madness, and ghosts.
The story is once again told from Tali’s point of view; we see the world through her eyes and have the same information she does. We explore the memories of her youth and how she interacted with other characters then, and we see her learn about her new friends and what their lives were like. Much like with The Wolf of Oren-yaro, the other characters are built through Tali and how she views and interacts with them. While this can lead to a certain degree of unreliable narration, it makes them seem like real people coloured by the perceptions of the queen.
My personal favourite part of Villoso’s use of the first person is that it shows how and why Tali makes her decisions. You can see who she cares for, and how their joys, their worries, and their pains can influence her. Villoso’s character development is truly amazing throughout this book. Characters are brutally forced outside their comfort zones where they are forced to not only survive but to deal with some pretty hefty consequences for their actions too.
Tali has made more than one mistake in her past, and it seems that they all chose the most inopportune time to come back to haunt her.
Additionally, the plot has sped up a bit in this book as the scope continues to widen from what we saw in The Wolf of Oren-yaro. There are fights, magic, political manoeuvring and much, much more. Villoso had me on the edge of my seat for most of the book, eagerly anticipating what would happen next. And let’s not forget, the promise of dragons was delivered on, and it was amazing.
I really enjoyed this book, it’s stepped the story up a level from where it started with The Wolf of Oren-yaro, and has left me eagerly awaiting book three, The Xiaran Mongrel. There are a few small allusions to events from Villoso’s other books, The Agartes Epilogues. They’re little Easter Eggs rather than anything important, the few I picked up were just from knowing names of the books, but I did find it pretty cool.
This book is probably best for people who like:
- Character-focused books
- Political fantasy
- First person POV
- Female MC
- Twists and turns