Monday, October 12, 2020

The Blacksmith Queen by G. A. Aiken: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken

The Blacksmith Queen, The Scarred Earth Saga 1, is one of those books that I noticed when it came out and then discarded, as I had other books to read at the time. It seemed to ride on the wave of popular fantasy books that have come out in recent years where a strong underdog queen has to fight to capture and/or keep her realm, complete with a cover that has a crown on it. Turned out, it wasn’t quite that book.

The book is by G. A. Aiken, who has mostly written steamy paranormal romances with dragons in them (and other paranormal romances as Shelly Laurenston). But turned out, this wasn’t quite that eitherthough a dragon does make an appearance. It’s a combination of the two, with an epic fantasy plot and paranormal fantasy pacing. The romance is slow burn on the background and never the main goal, although the second book does concentrate on a different pairing. It’s a book about women, three sisters, with men taking the side roles.

It’s a story of a larger than life family, literally, who through machinations of one of their own find itself in the centre of a battle for succession, despite being peasants and blacksmiths. Keeley is a master blacksmith, a huge woman with great strength and skilland heart. She believes good of everyone and doesn’t believe in absolute evil. When her sister Beatrix is declared a queen by witches, she sets out to protect her, only to be declared a queen too, much against her will. But Beatrix won’t take her sister’s competition lying down, so the family is torn in two, with Beatrix on one side and the rest siding with Keeley.

While the scope of the story is epic, building towards a huge war in some future book, the execution is that of a paranormal fantasy. The chapters are short and the scenes are always on the point with no time wasted on the road. I’ve recently lost my appetite for fantasy that takes a third of a book to just set the characters in their normal before plunging them into something new, so this kind of fast narrative where every chapter advances the plot works for me perfectly.

There are several point of view characters, some of whom only exist to offer an insight to an event, but the core characters emerge as interesting individuals. The main couple is Keeley and Caid, a centaur warrior who is more than a match to the huge blacksmith who finds herself building an army to take out the old regime. Gemma, Keeley’s sister who is a war monk and feared by everyone, will take the centre stage in the next book. What made this book a fun read was the relationship between the sisters. Keeley and Gemma were constantly fighting with loud voices, but they also had each other’s back when needed. Everyone’s a little crazy, but their hearts are in the right place. And like in all good epic fantasy, the evil queen is evil and needs taking down. I can’t wait to read the next book to see where this all leads.

 

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