Queen of Raiders is the second book in the fantasy series, The Nine Realms, by Sarah Kozloff. It continues where we left off in A Queen in Hiding.
In this book, guided by the spirits and with the help of her animal friends, Cerulia sneaks into Oromondo and joins Thalen’s Raiders in their fight. She has to demonstrate extraordinary physical strength and mental resilience to overcome numerous challenges along the way. However, she always had the recognition and company of animal friends.
I found this book equally captivating as the first book in the series. I may have liked A Queen in Hiding a bit more, but Queen of Raiders continues the world building and there are still new characters to meet.
Twenty-two raiders fled from Sutterdam to Yosta with a plan to fight the Oros in Oromondo. Hake and Quinith set up in Yosta to organize resources and recruit fighters.
Thalen and the raiders took a perilous journey to Oromondo. They had to pass through the Needle, a narrow, blind spot hidden from the magi. After successfully navigating that, they set up camp where there was a clean water source.
Once they were set up, the Raiders started small attacks against the Oros. They managed to kill two magi (numbers 4 and 3) before they were tricked into chasing some fighters pretending to be magi into a trap.
In Slagos of the Green Isles, Wren met Gardener, who does the work of growth for the spirit Vertia. Although he is blind, he takes care of elaborate gardens and recognizes Cerulia as the Nargis heir.
Cerulia got a job at the stables with the name Kestrel. Since she could talk to the horses, and they trusted her, she was very successful at her job and grew in confidence. She continued to visit regularly with Gardener, and through her conversation with him one day, she realized how much she has grown since her mother left her and that it was time for her next step. Avoiding the men searching for her and those in cohoots with Matwyck, she headed off to Alpetar.
In Alpetar, Cerulia took the name Finch and joined with a group of refugees. After days with them, she realized it was time to move on. She recruited help from an owl and a hawk to find her way to meet Thalen’s Raiders in Oromondo.
By the time that Cerulia, Skylark, met the raiders, her feet were shredded from the journey. She was first treated with suspicion, but her communication with eagles proved crucial in providing information to help in the battle.
Skylark had a brief affair with one of the raiders, Adair, but it was short-lived as he was killed in battle. Thalen was also attracted to her, and she to him, but they never admitted their attraction to each other.
In the final fight with the Oros, the Raiders were tricked into thinking that they were attacking a magi. It was a trap set by Sumroth and another commander; they had some magicked wolves, which gave them an advantage, especially since wolves generally ignored instructions from Cerulia. A few of the raiders survived, and Tristo and Cerulia were captured.
With the help of her avian friends, Cerulia managed to send a message to Thalen from prison. They could use the birds to attack the Oros with burning sticks. The burning sticks caught many of the buildings on fire, and Tristo and Cerulia were able to escape with the help of the other Raiders. However, as Cerulia went to jump over a moat with her horse, a fireball from magi 2 struck her in the back as Thalen and Tristo watched.
One of the refugees that Finch met in Alpetar was Gunnit. A man who had sought him out, Peddler, called him “Kissed by the Sun” and gave him a special gold bracelet. Peddler directed him towards a village, Cloverfield, where the refugees were welcomed and could find a new home.
In Wyndton, Cerulia’s adopted family misses her and all deal with their grief in different ways. Eventually, her adopted father died of suicide. The son Tilim, daughter Percia, and mother Stahlia were distraught both by Wren’s disappearance and Wilim’s death.
On a visit to the Duke in Androvale while exploring the duchies of Weirandale, Marcot and Percia met and were drawn to each other.
Back in Cascada, Matwyck continues his reign of terror. When he found out that Tenny had let Cerulia go, he planned to kill her, and agreed to let her die by suicide instead.
Matwyck’s wife spent as much time as she could away in the countryside. She often took their son, Marcot, with her. However, Matwyck pushed to have Marcot stay near him, and appointed him to replace Tenny on the Circle Council. Marcot hated his father because of how calculated he was.
Every time Matwyck touched his wife, she steeled herself, and Marcot noticed this. However, she sacrificed herself for Marcot. Even knowing that her husband was poisoning her slowly, she took the “medicine” and passed away. Marcot was distraught but decided to play his role while keeping as much distance as he could from his father.
Marcot quickly realized that the Circle Council meant to guide the regent were self-absorbed and thinking only of themselves rather than about Weirandale. He managed to get permission to visit other duchies in Weirandale to escape from his father for as long as possible, and to better understand what was happening in Weirandale. With guidance from Duke Navan, he began to see the reality of life in Weirandale.
Meanwhile, Matwyck tried to consolidate his power by acquiring authority over religious matters. Realizing that he needed more money after exempting his noble supporters from taxes, Matwyck cut down on household expenses. He fired the chronicler (who refused to leave).
The Free States
Resistance, called the Defiance, continued in The Free States. Norling and Gustie (Thalen’s friend from the scolarium) were key participants. Gustie was one of the kept women by a commander, and she used her position to convince him to host a dinner. At the dinner, she managed to poison many of the top commanders of the Oro’s army.
Thalen’s father, Hartling, was one of the prisoners forced to work for the Oros.
Sumroth continued his hold of the free states. However, he was in conflict with the religious authorities. For example, he wouldn’t let them sacrifice a child to consecrate their citadels.
The Ending of Queen of Raiders
The agents of the spirits met to discuss the attack on Cerulia. Smithy (representing Pozhar) excused the attack because Cerulia’s actions killed the Magi. However, Sailor (representing Lautan) revealed that he’d taken steps to preserve the line of Nargis queens. Peddlar dissolved the Moot (meeting) in the midst of Smithy’s threats against them all for their interference.
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