Thursday, 26 June 2014

#CBR6 Book 58: "The Kraken King, parts 5-8" by Meljean Brook

Total page count: 350 pages
Part Five: The Kraken King and the Iron Heart - 4.5 stars
Part Six: The Kraken King and the Crumbling Walls - 4 stars
Part Seven: The Kraken King and the Empress's Eyes - 4.5 stars
Part Eight: The Kraken King and the Greatest Adventure - 4 stars

Parts 1-4 reviewed here.

Zenobia and Ariq are over the initial awkward state getting to know one another and actually falling in love part of their relationship. That doesn't mean that their communication runs smoothly and that there are no more cultural and emotional misunderstandings in their future together. There is also very real danger to Ariq's friends and family if he and Zenobia can't convince the Empress of Nippon that the rebel attacks are a clever plot against her, from people she believes are loyal supporters. If they can't convince the Empress, then they'll have to take the dangers on themselves, but the dangers are great and there are numerous obstacles in their way.

In part five, Zenobia and Ariq are separated and we discover the lengths Ariq is willing to go to get back to the woman he's fallen for. Zenobia has clearly learned a lot during her adventures, and is no shrinking violet either. She's not going to sit around being used as a bargaining piece and doesn't hesitate to try to rescue herself. In part six, Zenobia finally reveals the truth about her double identity and literary career to her friend Helene, and she and Ariq wait for the Empress to grant them an audience. In part seven, it turns out that the Empress isn't above using torture to get to the bottom of the plots against her, and Zenobia discovers that she's not strong enough to watch the the man she's come to love being forced to suffer. They need to escape the Empress' forces, and get help from an unexpected quarter. In part eight, Ariq and Zenobia race back to Krakentown, hoping to beat the Empress' forces there. They need to use the fearsome weapon Ariq has been hiding to eliminate the threat to their loved ones, once and for all.

I managed to wait until the final part was released to read the last four, which meant that I didn't need to worry about pesky cliff hangers. In these four instalments, the story changes its focus from Zenobia and Ariq's blossoming romance to the solving of the central underlying conflict set up in the first half, with the mysterious attacks on flying ships by unknown assailants. Unable to persuade the Empress' captain of the guard of where the true danger lies, as she and others are chiefly interested in the powerful war machine only Ariq knows the location of, he and Zenobia have to rely on themselves, their friends and allies in defending Krakentown.

In my review of the first four parts, I emphasised how much I enjoyed the ethnic diversity of the characters in The Kraken King and the nuance in which they are portrayed. I should also point out that most of the significant characters in this story are women, to a degree unusual even in paranormal/urban fantasy, which tends to be chiefly written by women and most often features female protagonists. It's sad that I feel the need to point this out, but Meljean Brook shows how easy it could be for any number of writers to do the same thing. While her books are set in an alternate historical world, the degree of equality between the sexes seems unusual in the genre, and I applaud that, even as I hope that more fantasy (and normal contemporary writers) follow suit.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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