What is it?

Taking place in the same Broken Empire as the last trilogy, The Red Queen's War series stars an entirely different cast of characters, with the occasional cameo appearance by our favorite villain protagonist. The books happen roughly concurrently with the Broken Empire books, beginning after Jorg starts going for the crown, and ending a few months before the conclusion of the third book.

They are written by Mark Lawrence and the books in the series are:

Prince of Fools (2014)
The Liar's Key (2015)
The Wheel of Osheim (2016)

What's it about?

Background on the world: the story takes place in the Broken Empire, which used to be one big empire hundreds of years ago, but is now divided into 100 warring kingdoms. On top of that, the world at large was once home to a mysterious and ancient precursor people, the Builders, so called for the few enormous structures still littering the place, created by technology or magic that has yet to be replicated. Things like "Builder's glass" that looks like glass, but is hard to break, or "Builder's stone" that is clearly some kind of rock, but was molded and poured like liquid. While Builder magic was lost, new magic is around, and wizards and necromancers and the walking dead are all legitimate threats.

In the kingdom of the Red Queen, Jalen Kendeth is a coward, scoundrel, gambler, partier, and general ne'er-do-well who loves wine, women, and song (and horses), and has a massive aversion to anything remotely resembling responsibility. Lucky for him, he is grandson to the Red Queen and tenth in line for the throne, a position that means he's got the perks of royalty without the threat of having to actually do anything. The only thing marring his existence (aside from the angry older brothers of the girl he fancies) is the fact that he can see the mysterious Silent Sister, a wizened old crone who appears at the Queen's side that nobody else seems to be able to see. Still, that's nothing that more wine and gambling can't fix. Then one day the Queen calls all of her grandchildren to hear the story of one Snorri ver Snagason.

Snorri is a noble and heroic poet-warrior viking from the northern lands who is on the way to rescue his family. He tells the royals how his town was attacked by undead, confirming the Queen's fears of an undead army and the rumored Dead King, who she privately suspects is being guided by her old enemy, the Blue Lady. While the Queen and Jalen's siblings and cousins (who do take their jobs seriously and are all involved in assorted roles of governance and military that Jalen avoids) start brainstorming what to do next, Jalen finds himself targeted by the sorcery of the Silent Sister, and through strange magics becomes inexorably intertwined with Snorri; the two are stuck together by fate, each unable to leave the other for long, as well as cursed with strange magic of their own. Since Snorri is a loving father determined to save his family, and is also twice Jalen's size, Jalen winds up being forced to tag along as Snorri drags him across the Broken Empire and beyond, into the afterlife itself if need be. Along the way, they meet Kara, a sorceress interested in a key to the underworld that's floating around, and Hennan, a twelve year old kid born and raised near the Wheel of Osheim, a place where the rules of reality are in flux and home to the Builders' greatest accomplishment and failure.

What did you think?

Good Lord, is this a pick-me-up from the Broken Empire trilogy.

Normally a series will start off light and funny, and then get darker as the story progresses, but these ones went backwards. Jalen's cowardice coupled with Snorri's heroism is hilarious; Jalen is constantly trying to figure out how to weasel out of the situation, and Snorri is so freaking noble that he assumes other people must also be genuinely courageous like him, and assumes the best of Jal, even when Jal clearly doesn't deserve it. There is, of course, character development as the plot progresses, and Jalen becomes less "dirty coward" and more "lovable coward," but he never becomes anything near heroic. A lot of his narration is also highly pretentious, as he is a privileged snot despite contributing literally nothing to his grandmother's reign, and this is juxtaposed with nobody taking him seriously on the road, and it gets really funny.

Despite being about different characters and taking place mostly on the other side of the planet, I hesitate to say that this trilogy could be enjoyed as a stand alone. A lot of the world building is stuff that's established in Broken Empire Trilogy, and explored even more thoroughly here, but that means that while the books are going really into depth with stuff Jorg never encountered (like the afterlife, for example, and what role the Wheel of Osheim played in the fall of the Builders), it also sorts of glosses over the setup for them. It feels like skipping over math essentials and going straight into algebra.

At the same time, I am saying that as someone who read the first books, then went into these and could see all the development and references and whatnot. Maybe someone going in blind would enjoy it fine. Maybe you don't have to know who the kid with the dog Jal and Snorri meet in the afterlife is to appreciate the story, maybe you don't have to know the Dead King's real motivation from the first books, or how the wrong-mages fit in with the established lore of the Builders' fall. But they certainly make things make more sense.

In any case, if your hangup with the first trilogy was that Jorg was a fundamentally terrible person and the story was too grimdark, I can recommend this series in that case. There are still stakes, and there's still fighting and death and violence and whatnot, but Snorri is legitimately heroic and noble, Jalen is funny, and the ending is surprisingly cheerful, and while Emperor of Thorns was the perfect ending for Jorg's story, Wheel of Osheim feels like a perfect ending for the world of the Broken Empire as a whole. If you are dead set against reading the first trilogy, then I still would recommend you read these ones and then check a wiki or something whenever anything doesn't make sense.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.