A perfect conclusion to a masterful trilogy.
One of the only issues I ever had with Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen was the required memory and knowledge a reader was supposed to bring into every book. This was not a complaint that affected my rating of a book, and for the most part had very little impact on my enjoyment of the book. However, from time to time, it was clear the author had written “a revelation”, but what it was or how it had come about was a complete mystery to me, based as it was on my having to remember three pieces of information from five separate books and put them all together seven books later.
Or something like that.
Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan, completes one of the better fantasy trilogies you’ll encounter. In many ways, Ryan writes in much the same way as Steven Erikson, leaving no character untouched by war and loss, and a seemingly joyous adherence to one of the prime lessons of fiction writing, “kill your darlings”. But as I read through this third and final book, it was quite clear the author intended for me to have re-read the previous two books immediately beforehand - and that’s just not something that I have the time for, or believe authors should force upon their readers.
Nevertheless, despite obviously missing out on some seemingly tantalising reveals that I suspect are supposed to have made things much clearer, I still loved Queen of Fire.
The vast majority of authors could learn a lot from Anthony Ryan on how to write characters in such a way as to make each and every one captivating. In many instances, multiple-perspective books only ever provide you with 75% worth of appealing characters, with the remaining 25% being eminently skipable. Either they make some characters too exciting and, therefore, by contrast everyone else is boring, or they simply run out of effort on the third or fourth point of view they write.
Anthony Ryan has none of these issues, and with continued writing is sure to go down as a master of weaving a story across multiple points of view. Vaelin, our primary protagonist, continues to wear the burden of leadership heavily, with a lot seeming to ride on his shoulders. Frentis and Reva both continue to be my favourite characters in this series, proving to be the real soul of the story. Alucius makes for a wonderful addition to the cast, and Verniers’ Accounts continue to be beautifully executed. In each of these cases, rooting for the current point of view is easy, replete with a wonderful history we’ve already encountered and a deep affection for the characters. Lyrna, on the other hand, proves possibly the most impressive chapters of all, for the simple fact that I supremely dislike her and her motivations, yet am utterly spellbound by how the author has managed to capture a soul so torn by bitterness without it becoming tropey or ridiculous.
The villains and companions of the story are equally impressive, and I continued to favour Frentis’ “beloved” over many of the good guys I was supposed to be rooting for - another proof of Ryan’s mastery of the craft.
The story comes to a climactic and heart wrenching close, and I think it quite safe to say nobody went home happy – of those who actually went home. Death was a common companion for all of our characters, and though the author treated it briefly, this only serves to further exemplify the stakes and the dangers of the world in which we temporarily inhabit.
Queen of Fire is a perfect conclusion to a masterful trilogy. The characters are second-to-none, and though the author requires a bit too much retained knowledge on the part of the reader, it is made up for by relegating such revelations to secondary status behind the lives and outcomes of these characters we have grown to love, admire, and hate.
Review by Joshua S Hill
3 positive reader review(s) for Queen of Fire
Marcos from Mussel
Compelling book, one of its kind. Was pretty hard to stop reading it and left me wainting more from this universe. Best world building and my recommended fantasy trilogy if you read Tolkien already.
Seth from United States
Jim from Brazil
It seems that we won't be seeing the long lived characters from Anthony Ryan like those which populate the books of Robin Hobb and Daniel Abraham. Maybe that's a good thing. After all, Hobb is the rare writer with the gift of extending an epic adventure to a dozen books without skipping a beat. And so ends Ravens Shadow. Flawlessly? No, but the flaws noted by the reviewers who preceded me were nothing compared to joy of re-encountering those characters from whose point of view the story is told. The Queen Of Fire was indeed a bit independent of the others, with few reachbacks to brief those of who either never read the prior books or in whose memory they are dim. Anthony Ryan might be accused of subjecting his heroes to almost inhuman trials of fire so as to make them larger than life. But such is the stuff of heroic literature. Were Agamemnon, Achillus or Socrates mere, ordinary people? Joan of Arc? Anthony Ryan's characters are by no means cardboard or stick figures. Even the evil Empress has moments of regret and all sure have their faults. the multiple points of view did not disjoint the book in my opinion. Each POV took off where the other left off, more or less. But one thing did bother me. I found myself longing for less violent fantasy a la Hobb, Sean Russell, Ursula LeGuin and Patricia McKillip. At times I switched off from Queen Of Fire and read Hobb's new book Fool's Quest through before I returned to Queen Of Fire. I look forward to more work from Anthony Ryan.
8.4/10 from 4 reviews