The Shadowed Throne by K.J. Taylor

August 23, 2013 Reviews 1 ★★★★★

The Shadowed Throne by K.J. TaylorThe Shadowed Throne (The Risen Sun #2) by K. J. Taylor
Published: 1st April 2013 by HarperVoyager
Format: Paperback, 448 pages
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Goodreads BooktopiaBookworld
5 Stars

Laela the half-breed raised in the South is now the Queen of the North. The seemingly invincible King Arenadd Taranisaii and his partner, the dark griffin Skandar, are missing. The Northerners blame Laela for Arenadd’s disappearance, but she knows the truth…

With only her griffin partner Oeka to help her rule, Laela struggles to maintain power and tensions mount with Arenadd’s cousin, Saeddryn, who believes she is the rightful ruler.

Laela is forced into a desperate fight to stay queen as the entire North is plunged into a brutal civil war. To win, she will need the help of her new friend, the odd shapeshifter Kullervo, and a surprising griffin ally from the past.

But the true test of Laela’s strength will come when the deadly Shadow that Walks returns…

Taylor’s gorgeous writing hooks me again! The Shadowed Throne is impeccably plotted and wonderfully told, figuratively carrying me away into another land. I’m not sure I’ll survive the wait until the concluding volume of the series.

Since the groundwork was beautifully laid out in the previous title, The Shadow’s Heir, it’s great to see that Taylor jumps right into the action and doesn’t waste time specifically re-orienting readers into the world. Which isn’t to say that I was confused at any point – even a year after reading The Shadow’s Heir, I found that Taylor made it very easy to slip back into the story, its characters and places. This cunningly created world is enhanced by the sequences (and there are quite a few!) told from the eyes of griffins. These are my favourite, because of the vastly different way that griffins see the world and order their priorities, although it’s always somewhat of a shock to me reminded how not-human they are.

Laela’s story continues to captivate me – she found her way to her people, saved them, and is now ruling them as Queen. Her struggles to balance her beliefs and dreams with her need to carry on Arenadd’s complicate her journey, as does the inevitable opposition from Arenadd’s cousin Saeddryn. But I actually wanted a little more growth from Laela, and expected the story to focus a little more on her. The Shadowed Throne aims to tell Laela’s story, but achieves this through exploring the lives and motivations of those around her – from her griffin Oeka, to the strange new-comer Kullervo. Which is rather a new way for me to read a story, but I ended up being really invested in all the peripheral characters and enjoyed how their stories wove in with that of the young Queen.

One of the things I’ve always admired about Taylor is the way she probes cultural and social mindsets, and in particular, how she’s handled the attitude of the Northerners. After their lengthy oppression and slavery at the hands of the Southerners, and only two decades after being set free by Arenadd, the Northerners are just as obsessed with the purity of blood and supremacy as their enemy. I wasn’t exactly surprised by how vehement some of them are in their pursuit of revenge, but I’m still waiting for good sense to kick in and for them to realise that maybe they’re better off just trying to live nice and peacefully … I’m not too hopeful though.

In previous books I’ve despaired at how the Gods in the story-world treat their followers – and how it’s usually the most loyal who are mistreated the most. It almost physically pains me to see how the Night God treats Arenadd, but I sort of understand it. However, Saeddryn is absolutely loyal and pious in her faith, and I almost, almost, feel sorry for her! But since she’s definitely my least favourite character (it’s a close call between her and Oeka though), I’m not ready to feel bad for her yet!

My only teeny-weeny negative about this book: it ends on a slight cliff-hanger and the story’s gotten to interesting that I am desperate for the next one! I really need to know what happens.

Taylor’s a masterful storyteller, and I’m glad I could experience this again with The Shadowed Throne. Readers already familiar with her work will love her latest offering, and I’d suggest to fans of Fantasy looking to dip into her work to begin with the prequel trilogy, The Fallen Moon, which deals with Arenadd’s amazing journey, but they could equally go straight to the first novel of this series, The Shadow’s Heir.

This book has been reviewed as part of the 2013 Australian Women Writer’s Reading Challenge.

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