RogerBW's Blog

The Soldier King, Violette Malan 02 June 2021

2008 fantasy, the second in the Dhulyn and Parno series. They're on the winning side of a battle against an aggressive kingdom, and they've captured the crown prince; and that's only the start of their troubles.

The Significant Capitals are back, but altogether this book holds together rather better than the last one. There are more stock fantasy elements than last time, in particular an actual magician; but they aren't over-used, because Malan has an actual story to tell, of treachery and manipulation and the sort of evil person who doesn't think of themselves as evil, just hard-done-by.

All right, some of it feels invented for the moment: the unbreakable Mercenary Brother rule that prisoners they take are immediately released rather than ransomed, for example, seems as though it might have unfortunate results. The sole survivor of the band of travelling not-Roma-honest manages to rise above stereotype, but stereotype is where she starts, in part because we've never heard of these people before.

We get court intrigue again, but it's less convoluted than last time and works rather better. (Though I do wonder slightly why this kingdom, which doesn't seem to do a lot of torture or executions in the usual way of things, has a permanent dedicated staff of torturer-executioners.)

At the same time there's a bit more on Dhulyn's history before she became a mercenary; Parno comes off second-best, though there's a little back-story for him as well.

After a number of recent books that have felt like hard work for little reward, this is very little work for a moderate reward, and a distinct improvement on my memories of the first one (which wasn't bad in itself).

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Previous in series: The Sleeping God | Series: Dhulyn and Parno | Next in series: The Storm Witch

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