#REVIEW: Upon the Flight of the Queen, by Howard Andrew Jones

Back in February I was able to get my hands on an early copy of Howard Andrew Jones’ For the Killing of Kings. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and said so, as I’ve been known to do, and miraculously just recently ended up with an early copy of the second book in the trilogy, called Upon the Flight of the Queen. I finished it today, a few days before release– the book comes out on November 19, next week.

I’ve been a fan of Jones’ for a while; he basically writes modern sword-and-sorcery, which is a genre that’s directly up my alley. The Ring-Sworn books are a bit more European in tone than the previous books I’ve read by him, and the first one basically ended up being a sort of fantasy murder mystery for about the first 2/3 of it, only the setup was that most of the characters were pursuing the rest of them for the murder that the book started with, while the main protagonists were looking for the shadowy villains who were actually responsible for the killing.

Upon the Flight of the Queen is, unapologetically and directly, a fantasy war novel. Killing of Kings ends with an invasion, and the entirety of Queen bounces back and forth between several locations all simultaneously being invaded by a group called the Na’or, who are 1) generally not very nice, 2) have dragons, and 3) are sort of allied with the Queen, whose role in the story I’m not going to talk about all that much because spoilers and I’ve probably already said enough, although if you’ve read the first book you’re already aware that something not quite kosher is going on with her.

The strengths of the first book were the characters and the fact that Jones never stopped stepping on the gas for basically the entire length of the story. This is much the same, really, except that the book’s timeline is really compressed compared to the first book– it takes place over no more than a couple of weeks, at most, I think, and there’s absolutely no point where the author lets the momentum of the book flag at all. Now, one mistake I think I made: I’ve read, conservatively, probably 75-80 books since Killing of Kings, and it might have been smarter of me to have reread it before jumping back into the sequel. There are a lot of characters and a lot going on in this book, and I spent a bit more time trying to figure out what was going on than I generally like to, which I think is more my fault as a reader rather than the fault of the book– which is, after all, book two of a trilogy, which one might not reasonably expect to stand on its own all that well. I also could have benefited from a map. Fantasy books should always have maps, even if they don’t need them. This one involves war and invasions so it needs them.

The first two books in the Ring-Sworn trilogy came out ten months apart, so one assumes Volume 3 will be out sometime next year. I didn’t love this one quite as much as I did the first volume, but I’ll make sure to reread them before the third book comes out. If you enjoyed For the Killing of Kings, I’d go hunt Upon the Flight of the Queen when it comes out next week.

#REVIEW: FOR THE KILLING OF KINGS, by Howard Andrew Jones

I have praised Howard Andrew Jones’ writing here before– his The Desert of Souls was on my 10 Best list for 2017, and I also enjoyed its sequel The Bones of the Old Ones, although I don’t think I reviewed it here at all. So when I got a chance to land an ARC of the first book of his new trilogy, For the Killing of Kings, I jumped on it. This isn’t out until February 19, so when I’m done telling you you should pre-order it, you can just go do that and have it on release day in a couple of weeks! Great how this works, isn’t it?

The word “Conan” always comes up when I’m discussing Jones’ books, and his work always does a great job of scratching that particular itch for me– straightforward sword & sorcery full of magic and violence and cool worldbuilding and prophecies and scary villains and interesting monsters. Jones’ flavor of sword and sorcery is decidedly more modern than the traditional Conan model– you’ll notice that the woman on the cover is wearing clothes, for example– and not only is the main character a woman but so are several important members of the supporting cast.

That said, this series actually feels a bit less Conan-esque than his previous books, despite being set in a more European-style setting than The Desert of Souls and The Bones of the Old Ones, which were both deeply influenced by the Arabian Nights. In a lot of ways, For the Killing of Kings has the feel of a murder mystery for a decent chunk of its length– it’s not quite a true murder mystery, because the reader knows who did the killing, but the book splits its time among three distinct groups of characters, two of whom are pursuing the third, and no one really has the full story about what’s going on until close to the end. The characters are the best thing about the book, honestly; everyone who gets screen time has their own motivations and goals, and most of the time those motivations and goals don’t overlap perfectly with everyone else in the story, so the conflicts keep multiplying and mounting until all the sudden at the end of the book we’re pretty sure that the government all of the main characters are supposed to defend is at least partially the bad guys and oh by the way there’s a whole invasion thing going on and the scope of the book widens rather quite a lot. This is a great rollicking landslide of a book; every little plot-pebble that happens sends a bigger rock rolling down the hill, and Jones never lets up on moving the plot relentlessly forward.

It’s tricky, when writing a trilogy, to set up the first book so that it tells its own story but introduces story threads that will continue into subsequent tales, and For the Killing of Kings does a great job of keeping the scope smaller until the end and then abruptly pulling the camera way back and massively upping the stakes for the remainder of the series. I will be buying my own copy of this to put on the shelf next to my ARC. You should too.