‘Beneath the Twisted Trees’ by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Initial Rating: Recommended (How I Rate Books)

  • Start with ‘Twelve Kings in Sharhakai’

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Genres: LGBT, Fantasy, Adult, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Political Fantasy

Similar books:

Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:

Here’s the TL;DR for my review (SPOILERS!):

  • Pros
    • Consistently good middle-book in a consistently good series
    • Took the raised ante of book 3 and successfully hit the landing.
  • Mixed
    • More of the same of the last few books, for good or ill.
  • Cons
    • I didn’t like it as much as books 1 or 2.

 

For four hundred years twelve immortal kings have ruled the Desert city of Sharhakhai, given eternal life and magical powers by the gods of the desert. Those four hundred years ended when Cheda killed the first of the twelve kings, in revenge for them killing her mother. That was book one: over the course of books 2&3 several more of the kings have been killed. The die have been cast, and the fates of millions are now on the line.

Foreign kings and emperors are invading the Amber Jewel of Sharhakhai City, for they smell blood in they water after several of the kings are killed. The empire of Malasan invades Sharhakhai militarily, while the Queen of Qaimere secretly kills one of the Kings of Sharhakhai and replaces him with a body double loyal to her. And those are just the external threats to Sharhakhai: several of the immortal kings themselves are seeking to kill their fellow kings and take over to rule the city alone.

Meanwhile the goddess Yorinde schemes to kill the goddess Nalame, while the demon Rümayesh plots to claim a relic of a dead and truly powerful god. At the same time foreign gods are invading with armies of clay golems. We learn a little more about the ontological mysteries and secret worldbuilding of this setting.

In this book I liked the Tattered Prince most out of all the protagonists, and the Queen of Qaimere and Rümayesh as antagonists.

The Tattered Prince has a cool coming-to-terms-with plotline with Rümayesh, so they become closer to being equal partners instead of such a predatory mortal-and-demon relationship which they had earlier.

The Queen of Qaimere assumes her role as the primary antagonist of this series, and I love it. Earlier in the series she was one of the more empathizable characters, but in her quest for revenge she’s made some evil choices which make her a ‘Cerci Lannister’ like villain.

Now to be fair, I liked earlier books in the series more. I feel as though the author has lost touch of the quieter, less epic-ness of earlier books in the series which I liked. This is an EPIC fantasy novel with tons of plot twists, intrigue, magic and combat. Earlier books were a lot lower stakes, with fewer moving parts and fewer characters. I liked them better because of that reduced scope. While this series does do EPIC very well (among the best Epic Fantasy I’ve ever read), I like the slower, more description heavy earlier books in the series.

I’m going to keep reading the series because I like it, but I hope the author reduces the stakes/povs for future books in the series. This book struggled slightly because of a too-large scope, with too many plotlines going on at the same time and without enough oomph given to any one in particular. I like this setting’s asian/middle eastern setting and the various revenge quests of Cheda and the Queen, but the series’ scope is getting to be so huge that I’m having trouble with it.

 

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