Having loved, loved, loved (and did I say loved?) Karen Miller’s novel Empress, I instantly started on the sequel upon completing the first. One month and several migraines later, I have finally (and did I say finally) completed the second novel in the Godspeaker Trilogy: The Riven Kingdom. It’s not that I didn’t like the novel . . . it was good in its own right . . . but as a follow-up to Empress, it failed to reach the bar, which was set pretty high.
The Riven Kingdom takes us out of Mijak and into the Kingdom of Ethrea, where the king is dying. There, we meet the heroine, Rhian, a princess doomed by her father’s untimely death. Because the king’s sons have also recently died, there is no legit heir to take the throne unless Rhian marries a man of the council’s choosing. In case you have not guessed, this kingdom follows very strict Western cultures. Boring. As ward of the church, Rhian must battle the prolate and his followers to take her place as queen, along with the help of an unlikely hero, Dexterity Jones the toymaker, the healer Ursa, and Zandakar the banished prince of Mijak. She is also aided by the spirit of Dexterity’s dead wife Hettie who offers him guidance and visions.
Sounds exciting, right? Well, don’t get too excited. Most of the book is spent with lords arguing in dusty old halls, bickering about who should marry Rhian, who should not marry Rhian, how they should stop Rhian . . . instead of actually doing anything about it. Meanwhile, Rhian sets forth on her journey regardless of the consequences only to question all of her decisions in the second half of the book. There is much talking on both sides building up to the showdown between Rhian and the prolate. When the forces collide, God steps in to punish the prolate and award Rhian her throne in the most disappointing case of dues ex machina to date.
For me the worst part of this book was the loose tie in to the first. Hekat and Mijak are hardly in it. You could read the books as two stand alone novels. For me, that is problematic when trying to develop a series. I think the stories could have been more intricately woven together. They just felt disjointed and overall the experience was very jarring.
Okay, so what did I like about the novel? I think I can sum it up in one name: Dexterity Jones. Just the name alone tells you this is an interesting character. From his first scene, I fell in love with his witty commentary, his agreeable personality, and heart. He was a breath of fresh air after meeting the whiney and inconsistent Rhian. Dexterity’s interactions with his friend, Ursa, are as human as they get, full of humor and affectation. Dexterity’s relationship with Zandakar is interesting to me because on several occasions they compare him to Vortka, Zandakar’s father. To me, Dexterity made the novel. I don’t know if I would have stuck it out except to know what happened to him. And go figure, I think he’s going to be banished from the kingdom at the start of book 3. Darn you, Karen Miller!
As far as recommendations, I will not recommend this book until I complete the series. If I’m satisfied with the third book, then I’ll recommend it, but if not . . . I would not see the point. The second book lacks the depth, complexity, and writing quality of the first, making it an unworthy follow-up . . . that is unless the third book is amazing.
Stay tuned in March when I review the third and final novel in the Godspeaker Trilogy. Until then, happy reading!