Continuing with my netgalley catch-up I am delighted to be reviewing The Queen of Izmoroz by Jon Skovron, which is the second book in the Goddess Wars series and was one of my most anticipated books for 2021. You can read my review for the first book in this series – The Ranger of Marzanna HERE.
Disclaimer – I received an e-arc via netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
Sonya has brought a foreign army to free her country from imperial rule, but her allies may have other goals in the second book of this thrilling epic fantasy trilogy from Jon Skovron.
The first battle is over, but war yet looms on the horizon. Sonya and her allies–the foreign Uaine and their armies of the undead–have beaten back the imperial soldiers from the capital city. Now they have the rest of the country to free.
Meanwhile, her brother the famed wizard Sebastian has retreated with the imperial forces to regroup and lick his wounds. Betrayed by his sister and his wife, the beautiful noblewoman Galina, he will regain control of his life and his country at any cost.
This was one of my most anticipated sequels for 2021, having fallen in love with the Ranger of Marzanna when I read it last year and I was not disappointed. I did find that this one took a little longer to find its stride than the last one, but at the same time Skovron certainly turned the dial up with this one across the board and I loved it.
The Queen of Izmoroz is a book of growth. We get to see more of the fabulous world that had started to be established in the first book, and expands on that exponentially, both in geographical terms with opening up regions that had previously just been names of the page and letting us see more of the Empire and how it relates to its various parts, but also in terms of the culture. Mythology has always played a central role in this series – and the ending of the first book highlighted that, but before there were lots of hints and glimpses, but it was limited in scope. In this book Skovron delves deeper into the mythology and shows us more tantalising glimpses of the goddesses that give the series its name – while still maintaining that mystery and sense of increasing stakes and tension, drawing us towards the next book in the series. (I want to know more, but I also want to see what he is going to do with it). With this also comes more variety and deeper diving into the various religious pantheons, beliefs and related magical practices between the different cultures and nations, and the diversity and division that brings – so the world feels as though it has grown exponentially here and I honestly love how Skovron has brought it on.
There is also character growth, both in terms of experience and skills as many of the characters we followed in the first book, especially Sonya and Sebastian were still learning, and finding their feet in the roles they had found themselves in – and while there was a lot of growth there, their development feels a lot more impactful in the Queen of Izmoroz. This is largely because the confidence (often over-confidence – looking at Sonya) and almost naïve natures of the characters have been shattered. It creates an interesting situation where the characters almost feel as though they have shrunk in on themselves, no longer shouting for the world to see them and applaud them – reeling from the consequences of their choices, and their experiences from the Ranger of Marzanna – on both sides of the conflict.
Yet, within this almost ‘retreat’ we see some of the most impactful growth, and Skovron is skilful in his deflation of everything these characters thought they were (again highlighting that naïvety, and almost childlike innocence – because they were young), and turning it into very real and believable experience, and it really brings the characters to life and it is wonderful to see them coming into their own – not cleanly, but messily and in shades of grey and so very human. It’s great to see the consequences of what happened in the first book playing out so vividly on the page, and for it to have such a real impact, and I like how the author takes that from the personal changes with the individual character, and up through the different parties in the conflict, and it just ties so much of it together.
As with the Ranger of Marzanna, there were some places where the writing didn’t quite live up to what Skovron was doing with the world and characters, and the pacing again throws off the ending a little, although ultimately it was a satisfying ending. Yet, it certainly does not detract from the progression of the plot, and those stronger aspects, and I loved this book despite those flaws.
The Queen of Izmoroz more than lived up to my hopes, and I really do love this series (and its covers) and I will eagerly be waiting for the next instalment.
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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.