Publisher: Harper Voyager (Hardcover – 14 July 2020)
Series: The Firemane Saga – Book Two
Length: 471 pages
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Legendary fantasy author Raymond E. Feist returns to his new series, The Firemane Saga, with Queen of Storms, an amazing and exciting fantasy novel that takes the reader on some intriguing adventures.
I have long been a fan of Raymond E. Feist and his epic works of fantasy. His long-running Riftwar Cycle books were amongst some of the first fantasy novels that I ever read and many of them, including the excellent Empire trilogy that he cowrote with Janny Wurts, are still some of my favourite books of all time. After finalising the Riftwar Cycle back in 2013, Feist released King of Ashes in 2018, which was the first book in The Firemane Saga. I really enjoyed the fun and compelling new story featured within King of Ashes, and I have been looking forward to seeing how the series continued for a while now. This second book, Queen of Storms, continues right after the events of King of Ashes and has some intriguing new twists and turns for readers.
In the ancient and magical world of Garn, war is coming to continent of Tembria and its first blow will fall on the trading town of Bernan’s Hill. Many people call Bernan’s Hill home, but none are more mysterious than the new owners of the town’s inn, Hatushaly and his wife Hava. Despite their simple outward appearances, Hatu and Hava were born on the secret island of Coaltachin and both serve their continent-spanning criminal and spy network. A series of mysterious events have been occurring throughout the kingdoms and lands of Tembria, and Hatu and Hava are tasked with observing Bernan’s Hill and reporting anything out of the ordinary.
Having befriended the town’s blacksmith, Declan, Hatu and Hava appear content in their new lives and are they are planning to be officially married during the midsummer festival. However, even their training and information will not prepare them for the horrors that are about to be visited upon Bernan’s Hill, as a new and mysterious force attacks without warning, plunging the entire continent into war. Separated from each other, each of these young people embarks on their own adventure. While Hava attempts to find her lost husband, and Declan sets out to get revenge, Hatu is kidnapped by those who wish him to fulfill his fiery legacy as the secret heir to the kingdom of Ithrace. His family, the legendary Firemanes, have long been rumoured to contain a spark of magic, and Hatu, as the last remaining Firemane, may hold the key to the survival of magic itself. As these three young people set out to realise their destinies, they will experience horrors and tragedy as it soon becomes apparent that a whole new threat seeks to destroy all within Tembria.
Queen of Storms was a captivating and fun book which I found myself reading in only a couple of days due to how much I enjoyed it. Feist has come up with a fantastic and impressive story within this novel, and I liked how it followed a group of excellent characters caught up in the chaos of a mysterious war. There is all manner of action, adventure, subterfuge, character development and exploration of a new fantasy universe that comes together extremely well into a compelling overall narrative. Readers should be forewarned that Feist makes some rather bold plot choices throughout this book, with a major event around halfway through the book really altering the course of the story in some interesting and dramatic ways. I also liked how Queen of Storms served as a great sequel to King of Ashes, and there are a number of amazing reveals and revelations that add to the storylines established in the first book. For example, the real antagonists of this series are revealed in more detail in this sequel after they were foreshadowed in the previous novel while the reader focused on a different antagonist, who had the potential to be the main villain. This bait-and-switch came together well in Queen of Storms, and I enjoyed uncovering more about these antagonists and their motives.
Queen of Storms contains a multi-character narrative which follows several key protagonists as they explore this new world from Feist and get involved in the politics and battles of the world. The majority of the story is told from the perspective of the novel’s three major characters, Hatu, Hava and Declan. Each of these characters gets some substantial focus throughout the course of this novel, with some interesting storylines. For the first part of the book their various storylines are very closely intertwined, as all three are based in the town of Bernan’s Hill in various capacities. However, after the novel’s major event around halfway through, these three characters are separated and each of them embarks on their own exciting and enjoyable adventure. Hatu’s story is a classic tale of a chosen one finding his destiny, which sees him journey off into the unknown to learn more about his past and his secret abilities. As Hatu is the most central protagonist, this storyline got a lot of focus, and it was interesting to learn more about his role in the world and about how his life is bonded to the world’s magic. Declan’s story becomes an interesting one about a young man learning to become a solider to avenge the death of his loved ones. Declan had some life events occur throughout this book and while it was a little sad to see some of the things he fought for in the first novel go up in smoke, it does serve as a good motivation for his character and it looks like Feist has some interesting plans for him in the future. Out of the three, I think I ended up enjoying Hava’s storyline the most. Hava attempts to find out what happened to Hatu and gets captured by slavers. She ends up using her abilities to free herself and her fellow slaves and becomes a successful ship’s captain, chasing after her husband while also exploring the lands outside the continent of Tembria. All three of these main character arcs are really enjoyable and together they form a fantastic heart for Queen of Storms, allowing for a rich and powerful narrative.
In addition to these main characters, Feist also utilises several minor point-of-view characters who add in some extra narrative threads to the book. For example, Donte, Hatu and Hava’s childhood friend who was captured by sea witches in King of Ashes, returns and a small part of the book is dedicated to his attempts to find Hatu and kill him. You also get several parts of the book told from some of the key players in fight for the continent, such as Baron of Marquensas Daylon Dumarch, the sinister adviser Bernardo Delnocio, as well as a handful of other characters. Each of these minor point-of-view characters provide their own insights and priorities to the mix and their various storylines and actions add a lot to the narrative and provide some interesting support to the main storylines. I also liked some of the supporting characters who rounded out the cast of Queen of Storms and several of them proved to be quite enjoyable and likable, even if they have a greater chance of getting killed off. Overall, Feist continues to write some great characters in this novel, and I look forward to seeing where each of these intriguing protagonists end up next.
The author also did a good job of continuing to expand on the amazing new fantasy world that the series is set in. While a substantial part of the novel is set around Brenan’s Hill, which was introduced in the prior book, the story eventually starts to examine some other parts of the world. In particular, several storylines are set around the islands and continents on the other side of the planet, none of which have been explored by any of the point-of-view characters. These new additions to the story proved to be quite intriguing, especially as the character’s various explorations revealed some shocking truths about the world, as well as some troubling revelations about the series’ main antagonists. It looks like the next book is set to feature some new areas of the world and should provide some more fascinating expansions down the line, which will no doubt provide some interesting backdrops and settings from the narrative.
While I did really enjoy Queen of Storms, I did find that some of the elements within it might be a little hard to follow if you had not read the first novel in the series. Feist does do a good job of recapping the major events of the first book throughout the course of the story, but there were a few moments in the story when the significance of certain characters, locations and events were not as highlighted as they could have been, and new readers might get a little lost at this point. There were even a few points at which I lost track of who a new character was, mainly because of the two-year gap between reading King of Ashes and Queen of Storms. Still, I was usually able to remember who the character was after some prompting, and it worked out fine. While this lack of certainty might occasionally impact the flow of the story for new readers, I think they can generally follow without too much difficulty.
Queen of Storms was an outstanding and exciting second entry in this fantastic new series from one of my favourite authors of all time, Raymond E. Feist. This was an amazing and enjoyable novel, filled with adventure, great characters, and a compelling narrative. I had an awesome time reading this book and I cannot wait to see how Feist continues The Firemane Saga in the next book. A must-read for fans of fantasy fiction; this one is really worth checking out.