Today I am absolutely delighted to be helping to kick off the Caffeine Tours Blog Tour for the Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso, the last book in the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro was one of the first books I reviewed on the blog, and I immediately fell in love with this series, and the Ikessar Falcon only cemented that fact, so I leapt at the chance to be part of this tour.
“I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour.”
Queen Talyien is finally home, but dangers she never imagined await her in the shadowed halls of her father’s castle.
War is on the horizon. Her son has been stolen from her, her warlords despise her, and across the sea, a cursed prince threatens her nation with invasion in order to win her hand.
Worse yet, her father’s ancient secrets are dangerous enough to bring Jin Sayeng to ruin. Dark magic tears rifts in the sky, preparing to rain down madness, chaos, and the possibility of setting her nation aflame.
Bearing the brunt of the past and uncertain about her future, Talyien will need to decide between fleeing her shadows or embracing them before the whole world becomes an inferno.
I was not prepared.
It’s a lie we always tell ourselves when we’re approaching the end of a series, particularly one like this that touches on so many deep and far-reaching emotional notes. That we are prepared for what is coming, trick ourselves into thinking that we’ve shored up our hearts in preparation for the ending, only to be proven wrong and oh dragons, this book destroyed me in all the best ways possible. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that cover! I have loved all the covers for this series, but the one for The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng has to be my favourite, and I could look at it all day.
This series has gone from strength to strength, and The Wolf of Oren-Yaro set the bar high from the very beginning, but this book really took everything to the next level – from the writing to the stakes and the choices that are facing the characters as everything moves towards the conclusion.
I have loved Talyien from the moment we met her in the first book. She’s not always been the easiest character to follow, but that is what makes her so interesting. She is messy and human and real, and it has been an absolute delight to follow her through her journey and to watch her develop between the hardships she’s experienced, the weight of the expectations resting on her from herself and from far too many directions and caught in the web woven around her by her father, by her husband and so many others. The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng is a testament to her character and how far she has come, and it was wonderful to see a softer side in her interactions with her son, with her changing relationships, even as she stands to sacrifice everything,
‘Strange how we leave these ghosts of ourselves in our children.’
This was a book of revelations. The many threads that have unfolded over the course of the previous two books, came to fruition here, and Villoso does a fantastic job of bringing all those different aspects together in this final volume while bringing more twists and turns, and surprises. It was also a book of sacrifice, and looking to the future, both on the personal level of parents to children – and there were some secrets revealed that took my breath away here – but also on the large scale of looking to future generations, and it was a beautiful mirror to the influence of the past that has permeated so much of this story.
We got to see more of Khine who is probably only second to Talyien in terms of my favourites, and also enjoyed the fact that we got to see more of the side characters. Rayyel was another one that I enjoyed seeing in this book, as it showed a different side to him than we had seen before, as some of the layers were stripped away and some of his scenes with Tali were incredibly powerful.
The revelations and character development leaned into the world as well. There was a deep questioning in this book, about the state the world was in and how it had been shaped by the past. About how much of the conflict and politics, and human messiness was the legacy of those who had come before, and how much stemmed from a world that was not equal.
Villoso’s writing has always been one of my favourite aspects of this series, and this book was no different, and there were so many parts that resonated that I could have quoted all of it. There’s a richness to the storytelling, a depth that goes beyond the immediate situation – memory and history and emotion underneath each word, even as the characters move forwards and try to look ahead. It’s a book about life, about family – past and present and future. Dragons, magic and fantastical settings don’t take away from that, instead, they enhance it – this is a book about people, and the whole messiness that comes with humanity and their politics, relationships and choices.
‘It is the desire for illusion that sustains us. We want to believe there is a happily-ever-after and it involves those who cannot possibly be as we are. And so if we cannot be heroes… if we feel we cannot make a difference or make our words carry weight… we create them – idols we praise to the highest heavens, sparkling figures who can do no wrong. We hold them as examples of what we could never be and use them to explain away our own deficiencies, tell the world we won’t bother because of what we are not. We create heroes so we never have to try ourselves.’
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng confronts you and forces you to think and feel, treading a delicate balance between action and conflict, and reflection – internal and external – and doing so in a way that leaves a lasting impression. It is not necessarily an easy read, and there are some truly dark moments in this book, but it is a powerful, consuming read.
This is how you bring a series like this to an end. The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng was everything I could have wanted and more, and I’m already itching to pick it up again, because there is so much depth and meaning in its pages that I feel like it will take me more than one reading to truly absorb it all. This was a book that when I reached the end, I just sat there and felt it. It’s bittersweet, because I have loved this series from start to finish, and while it is a delight to see it brought to such a satisfying conclusion, it is also an ending, and I would quite happily return to this world and characters as many times as possible. The Chronicles of a Bitch Queen is a series that you need to read and reread again and again, and I honestly cannot recommend it highly enough.
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If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.