Talyien, Queen of Jin-Sayeng, has been betrayed. She is in hiding, sheltered by a slumlord in Anzhao City while she recovers from her confrontation with the sorcerer Prince Yuebek and a disastrous reunion with her estranged husband, Rayyel. Her own guards have mostly abandoned her, leaving her protected only by Nor, her guard captain; Agos, her childhood friend; and Khine, a onetime physician and con artist from the city’s seedy depths. And yet, it seems Talyien still has further to fall: Her erstwhile host turns her over to the city’s corrupt governor. Her escape, aided by a shadowy faction from her home country, leads ever deeper into a morass of plots, secrets and magic that tests the strength of her friendships, distorts her late father’s legacy, and threatens the fabric of reality itself.
The Ikessar Falcon, K.S. Villoso’s sequel to The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, is fast-paced to say the least. It transitions from the dark political fantasy of the first book to an apocalyptic epic reminiscent of Terry Brooks’ The Elfstones of Shannara at breakneck speed. There are almost too many plot twists and new developments to track, which would be confounding were it not for the strength of Villoso’s portrayal of Talyien. The queen is clearly in the same boat as the reader as she struggles to keep up with the sheer pace at which her world is being turned inside out. Perhaps the most compelling subplot is Talyien coming to terms with the nature of leadership and what it means to rule. The Ikessar Falcon also includes some fascinating developments in Talyien’s relationships, especially those with Rayyel, Agos and Khine. Villoso’s clear talent for characterization is as evident as ever.
However, the most striking differences between The Wolf of Oren-Yaro and The Ikessar Falcon are the rapid expansion in the setting and the abrupt shift in the role of magic. While the first book emphasized the political intrigue and cultural complexity of both Jin-Sayeng and Zirinar-Orxiaro, the second book recasts magic as the driving force behind all the machinations. In addition, while The Wolf of Oren-Yaro took place over a few days and was set almost entirely in the urban confines of Anzhao City, The Ikessar Falcon compresses weeks of travel across oceans and continents into gaps between chapters. Although the characters are as compelling as ever, these shifts move Villoso’s series closer to the typical epic fantasy, and results in a much broader writing style than the tightly constructed, setting-specific voice of the first book.
The Ikessar Falcon retains the excellent characterization and intrigue of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro while expanding both its world and the plot at a head-spinning rate. It does everything the middle book of a trilogy should with an uncommon degree of authorial skill, and is a thoroughly entertaining read in its own right.