Sorne, the estranged son of a King on the verge of madness, is being raised as a weapon to wield against the mystical Wyrds. Half a continent away, his father is planning to lay siege to the Celestial City, the home of the T’En, whose wyrd blood the mundane population have come to despise. Within the City, Imoshen, the only mystic to be raised by men, is desperately trying to hold her people together. A generations long feud between the men of the Brotherhoods and the women of the sacred Sisterhoods is about to come to a head.
Picking up Besieged after The King’s Bastard was quite the change in story. Rowena mentioned to me that the books would be totally different from each other. They were story wise but just as with The King’s Bastard, Besieged was just as great a read. Taking on similar aspects on both a grander and smaller scale.
The grander scale of everything is noticeable from the introduction to the world Chalcedonia and the Five Kingdoms as well as its inhabitants. There are two races: the True-men of Mieren and the T’en or Wyrd, though there is a strong division about these two there are also half-bloods being both part Mieren and part Wyrd, the Malaunje. The True-men feature in the story as a normal human race and are the rulers of the world. Contrary to the T’en who live in a separate city, Celestial City, and are heavily despised by the True-men. T’en have some physical modifications like having 6 fingers on each hand and 6 toes on each foot, when I got the book I checked out the front and started counting, 1-2-3-4-5-6? repeated it and still got to six. I just discarded it as a art error and started reading, but soon I found that it was not an error! Added to this physical difference the T’en have also white hair, but a important feature is their control over the gift which comes in many versions. As the T’en are despised the Malaunje have to put up with even more consequences. They are defects and faults that are often killed at birth when born from to True-men parents. Pretty dark and gruesome. But in some cases the Malaunje children are given to the T’en. In this “donation” the world and mainly the society of the T’en enlarges again.
The T’en society is divided into sisterhoods and brotherhoods, where the sisterhoods have the current upper hand. In short the children are donated to the sisterhoods regardless of gender but at age of 17 the boys are given to the brotherhoods and the girls go to stay in the sisterhoods. Next to the strong hatred of the True-men to the T’en there is a certain friction between the sisterhoods and brotherhoods. Which in some cases erupts in a quite violent scenes.
In Besieged the story is told pretty neatly through the eyes of many different characters, Sorne a Malaunje male and Imoshen a T’en female make up most of the story telling. What I found a great at the beginning of the book was actually how Sorne came into the world with a delivery. And from this point on the story was just full of intrigue, betrayal and lies. Sorne a Malaunje born from a male and female both True-men, the male being king Charald none the less, and Sorne is lucky to have kept his life. I liked how Sorne was shown throughout Besieged, being trained on a remote area by a priest who seeks revenge for the death of Sorne’s mother, who was killed having delivered a Malaunje. But with a chance given Sorne is forged into a secret weapon to be used by Charald against the T’en. And in his training nothing is frowned upon in strengthening his character and his learning about the T’en habits. The overall character development of Sorne was nicely done, being raised in secrecy and with just his tutor he came over as a true believer that his education and actions were justified but as the intrigue and betrayals darken and deeper he slowly seek redemption with his earlier actions. I was quite pleased with these actions. As for Imoshen, wow, I really felt for her. Likewise as Sorne, Imoshen is also planned to be used as a weapon, but here to be used by the brotherhood against the sisterhood. She is being kept prisoner and used for producing a child for the brotherhood. But when she has one, and she hears that she is going to be executed due to her potential powers, she flees. This scene got my heart racing and in the end felt quite empty for what had happened on the sea and the boat. Capturing this heart-torn moment was done very nicely.
Besides Sorne and Imoshen there are many other characters that are being introduced into the storyline of Besieged. Some of them are just as likeable or even hateable (in a good way) as Sorne and Imoshen, one female of the sisterhoods was a great addition. Vittoryxe, on a first take she is shown as a ambitious women who only want the best for her sisterhood, but as the story progresses her true intentions are shown and she goes from a quite compassionate woman to a very selfish one. Some people will go over dead bodies to achieve their goals and Vittoryxe and some of the other characters like the uncle of Sorne, Matxin are more the rule than the exception.
Besieged is a great showcase of both intricate character relations on a small scale like between Imoshen and Vittoryxe as well as showing struggles of a hated and despised people on a greater scale with the True-men against T’en, this greater scale is also shown between the sisterhood and brotherhood. Similarly as The King’s Bastard the writing style is great and neat and reads away easily. All the events that occur in Besieged lead up to a nice ending with a good link to the second book. A solid plot, both betrayal on small and large scale, great likeable characters make Besieged a great starter.
Review by Jasper de Joode
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