Reviews of ‘The Two-Faced Queen,’ ‘World War 2,’ and ‘World War 1’

The Two Faced Queen

Book two of the ‘Legacy of the Mercenary Kings’ series. It’s a sequel to ‘Kingdom of Liars.’ There’s my review. Book 3 is coming out soon and I’m reading it.

If I were to summarize my feelings about this series, I’d say that it is very good plot-focused writing. The magic in this world requires you gradually give up memories in exchange for supernatural powers. As a result, the plot gets complicated and fascinating fast as the protagonist forgets important plot details. The narrative on one occasion randomly skipped a day due to the protagonist forgetting what happened on that day, and I really loved when that happened. Similarly, side characters sometimes forget important events/aspects of their personalities, leading to tense moments where you wonder if they’ll remember and potentially start a fight.

Overall, the author did a very good job of exploring the implications of a memory-based magic system. A lot of amateur/debut authors would not weave such a magic system directly into the plot. Not here. The author did a fantastic job of weaving this magic system in with the plot. If I were to critique one aspect of this, I’d say that there was arguably too much plot. It was almost too intricate.

I found the characterization to be somewhat lacking. I enjoyed reading about the characters, but they weren’t anything to write home about. I will say that I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator did a kick-ass job of bringing the characters to life and imbuing them with personality.

The worldbuilding was good-to-great. It features immortals, dragons, and mystical creatures, with ice, fire, light, and untold other types of magic. It has a serial killer who devours the hearts of his prey, to steal their powers. The moon was shattered by the protagonist’s ancestor, and now the shards are slowly falling from the heavens. I loved the setting, but I wanted a little more from it. I wanted to know what the food tastes like, what the air smells like. In short, the narrative never gives long descriptions of stuff like feasts or clothing or potsherds, instead focusing on the big-picture stuff like magic and dragons.

There’s no ‘right’ way of worldbuilding. Some people like having minimal description of the setting, like what this book did. I just happen to like when the narrative stops to smell the roses. Take your pick about what you like, there’s no right answer.

The book has fantastic, fast-paced pacing. There’s no telling when the protagonist is about to get in a fight, because someone’s always gunning for him. Due to the amnesia/memories slowly being revealed plot structure, it’s a bit slower in the beginning due to characters being a state of stasis from forgetting things. But as memories are revealed/other revelations take place, the plot speeds up. The story cascades to a rapid and thrilling conclusion.

I’d give this 4 stars. It’s a guilty pleasure, but I really enjoyed this. (3 stars for me is ‘Average,’ so this is above average fun for me.)

World War 2

This is a lecture series on the topic of WW2. It focuses mainly on warfare, troop movements, and political intrigue. However it also briefly discusses the home front, racism in the US army, Hitler being crazy, the Holocaust and similar topics. It covers the Eastern and Western front, as well as the Pacific theater, but it also touches upon the African Theater.

In particular, I liked how the lecturer discussed what an average day was like for a US GI trooper. He told jokes, read out poems, that sort of thing. This lecture was actually recorded before an audience, and the audience started laughing at some of the jokes.

This lecture series had flaws. It was VERY birds-eye focus, with one lecture per major battle/phase of the war, trying to cover everything a little but failing to cover anything in detail. This was my first introduction to the topic of WW2, but even I know that this lecture series barely scratched the surface of the topic. I’ll need to do more reading.

World War 1

This is a re-listen for me of this lecture (here’s my first review). Reading this in succession with the World War 2 lecture is really striking. Where that lecture focused on the battles and campaigns of the war, this focused on the big picture. What were the major powers, and what were there war aims? What was daily life like for civilians? What were the economies like of the major powers, and how did didfferent ideologies (socialism, communism, liberalism, conservatism, militarism) effect the economy? What was daily life for soldiers? What was the ‘culture’ of trench life like, and how did ‘trench’ culture effect art and politics for decades to come?

Of these two, I preferred this second one due to how BROAD it was. It feels like it covers all the major topics, instead of focusing only on military events. Now, that said, this lecture series did feel deficient in covering military events. It mentioned gallipoli, but didn’t really describe what happened. It mentioned Verdun, the Somme, Passchendale, the twelve battles of the Isonzo, but didn’t describe anything in detail. Whereas the prior lecture series discussed the Battle of the Bulge in detail for an ENTIRE lecture, as an example.

Neither approach is right or wrong. However, neither this lecture series nor the prior one is able to be read on it’s own. I think as a jumping-off point for more research, this lecture is better due to it’s broadness, and how it provides so much context to events before, during and after the war. However the other lecture’s deep-diving on the war and military actions was extremely well done. I think I’ll listen to it again in the future because it was just so thorough.

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