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Review: Flames of Attrition – Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

Flames of Attrition - Vanessa Maclaren-Wray - The Unremembered King

Genre: Fantasy, Portal Fantasy, Sci-Fantasy

Reviewer: Scott

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About The Book

The commander writes strategy in ink, the captain in orders, the trooper in blood. – Teachings of the Jeskan Guard

The nation of Jeska stands at a crossroads. As the newly-appointed king, Corren must contend with civilian distrust, an imminent invasion, and his fractured family. His wife and son are missing—trapped behind enemy lines. He’s brought evidence the rising insurrection is funded by the shamans, but instead of disbanding that guild, the Council of Elders believes the enemy’s lies that Corren’s corrupt.

In days, an army of invaders—including hundreds of child conscripts brainwashed by the shamans and their allies—will march into Jeska. To save his country, Corren will need all his strategic genius, the determination of his guardsmen … and dangerous new technology wrested from a device that doesn’t belong in this world.

The Review

This is the second (and final) book in “The Unremembered King” duology. It picks up where “Shadows of Insurrection” left off, in the nation of Jeska as its new King prepares for war with the Southerners.

The first two-thirds of the book details the war effort and the battles fought to save Corren’s beloved country from the invaders who threaten to destroy everything. This book (like the last one) relies on a single first person POV character – Corren himself. I love this character – he’s grounded and self-deprecating and knows who he is and what he is capable of.

The capitol city of Jeskryn is swirling with conspiracies, plots and lies, and Corren does his best to slice through them with the help of his loyal friends and followers. War being what it is, he will lose a number of them before the end, including some of his Six, the six men who have been his constant battle companions since he first set off to find out his father’s fate near the start of Shadows of Insurrection

We also learn a lot more here about Corren’s wife. Heyliannin becomes a much more sympathetic character in this volume, in large part because Corren’s perception of her shifts as they spend more time together, after they take an impromptu trip through the southern Lakeside district to try to ferret out where the district’s missing money has been going.

I really enjoyed this series, with a few caveats. The main one is that I’m not a big fan of single POV or first-person characters in novel-length works, especially epic fantasy. I want to see the world in all its glory, not just a small slice of it. That worked against this story a bit, especially in the first half of the book, when much of the action was happening far away from Corren and Jeskryn. Like Corren, we only “saw” it through messenger reports, which made for a bit of a claustrophobic feeling. Only once the battle reached the capitol city did I really feel immersed in the danger and the action.

This was effective at ratcheting up the tension, as we waited along with Corren for dribs and drabs of news, so in that sense it works. It’s just my preference to be able to be more directly involved in things in this kind of fiction.

The other thing… at the end, there’s a chapter that explores what might have been if Corren’s life had run differently. I get the idea of it – the road not taken. But in this case, I found it less than helpful, as it was structured as a single scene a la the end of The Wizard of Oz, as various characters from Corren’s life showed up and didn’t know who he was. It left me a bit befuddled, felt tacked on to what had already been a nice ending.

I’d heartily recommend this two book epic fantasy series. It has a great character voice, fine worldbuilding and a satisfying ending. Just skip the last chapter. 😉

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.

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