Book Review: The Queen of Izmoroz by Jon Skovron

The Queen of Izmoroz by Jon SkovronTitle: The Queen of Izmoroz
Author: Jon Skovron
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: April 20, 2021
Genre: Fantasy
One Sentence Summary: Now that Sonya and the Uaine have driven the empire out of Izmoroz, a tapestry of maneuvers and plots are set in motion to change the lives of Sonya, her brother Sebastian, and Sebastian’s former intended Galina.

I really enjoyed the first book in the trilogy, The Ranger of Marzanna, so I was eager to leap back into the world and the lives of two siblings at odds with each other in The Queen of Izmoroz. I love that this series focuses on siblings and that they’re on opposite sides, but, as we see glimmers of it in the first book, they might not be too different from each other. This is turning into a wonderful series not just about a fantasy world and military and political maneuvering, but also of family and siblings. This second installment was a lot of fun to read, and I look forward to seeing how it concludes.

The Separate Paths of Siblings

Following the events of The Ranger of Marzanna, a new set of events have been touched off for siblings Sonya and Sebastian and everyone they know.

After her victory alongside the Uaine she recruited, the people have unexpectedly turned from Sonya, forcing her leave with her new friend Jorge. Feeling adrift, especially when the truth of her goddess’s blessings come to light, she willingly goes with him to his home country of Raíz. But the people there, while happy to embrace her, are more interested in what she can do to help liberate them from the empire.

Sebastian has chosen to travel to the Aureumian Empire’s capital alongside his mother, his commander, and a general. But he begins to question his own role and where he belongs. Reassigned by the Queen, he finds himself with a company that’s weary but has no choice but to follow orders in Kante. Meanwhile, his mother has been recruited as something of a spy in the capital while a deadly force is preparing to bear down on them.

Galina has dreams of making Izmoroz greater than it was before. But the men in charge appear to be interested in doing nothing more than yell at each other and take their time rebuilding the country. Frustrated, she takes things into her own hands, especially as she witnesses first hand the desperation of her people.

As with The Ranger of Marzanna, I really enjoyed The Queen of Izmoroz. I love everything about the world and adore the characters. My favorite part is it’s centered around one family, particularly siblings who seem to have nothing in common. It’s not a particularly complex story, but there’s still a ton in it, making it easy to follow and surprisingly easy to read.

The sister-brother dynamic is the whole reason why I wanted to read the first book. I loved it so much that I couldn’t wait to see what would happen to them in the next book. They’re so different, their ideas seemingly oceans apart. But they’re still tied together. The push and pull between sibling love and sibling hate is so present and so well done that I often feel Sonya and Sebastian are the whole reason I’m even reading and loving this series.

Really, the characters make the series for me, but I also really like that there’s so much going on. There’s this empire that’s taken over almost the entire continent and another country that’s so out of the way no one knows much about them, but I get the feeling they’re not too different from the empire. The characters slip and slide all over the place and everyone has different ideas, especially when it comes to how to rule, that I couldn’t help but be sucked into the story. I loved the layers, the intrigue, the switching of sides. I loved the secrets and the distrust that seemed to flower almost everywhere.

Full of Personality

As I mentioned, the characters really make the story. They’re all incredible and so unique that I hardly ever mixed any of them up. The Queen of Izmoroz neither has too many nor too few characters. Sometimes I can seem like there are maybe a few too many viewpoints the story is told from, but I could see how every single one of them was necessary and important. Good thing they were easy to tease apart from all the others. But I was most impressed with how all the secondary characters really stood out well. The tertiary ones did blend together a bit, but the more important characters were all incredible.

My favorite characterizations are, of course, Sonya and Sebastian. Not only do they lead very different lives, but they also have different values and ideals. Though The Queen of Izmoroz saw them start to realign. I loved how everything there is to know about them was really couched in the way they spoke and behaved. Sonya feels more like a free spirit and has a very common and casual manner of speech. She’s always ready to leap without thinking and is quite the protector. Sebastian, on the other hand, is more thoughtful and, well, better mannered. He acts the way one would expect a noble’s son to act. He has the tact and decorum his sister lacks. It was fun to see them interact, though they were mostly separated throughout the book. They were, though, never too far from each other’s thoughts, which was really sweet.

I can’t not mention Galina or my favorite character, Jorge. Galina comes off as young and innocent, but underneath is a spine of steel. She’s extremely well-read and very intelligent, and isn’t above using manipulation. She seemed a bit softer, a bit more noble, in the first book, but she quickly shook off that mantle in this one. I loved how her character evolved, and why it had to evolve. She was amazing and I’m really starting to love her. Then there’s Jorge, Sonya’s friend from the colorful and warm country of Raíz, a Spanish-influenced world. In the first book, there are hints at his past, but this book dove him head first back into his roots and family. It was so much fun to see him back at home and see just how different and similar he is to his family. But, through it all, he was still the levelheaded young man I really liked. Of all the characters, he was the least likely to engage in guile and intrigue and just seemed to keep it simple. He’s a nice anchor in a world that seems to be going mad.

An Earth-Inspired World

While The Ranger of Marzanna was centered on Izmoroz, The Queen of Izmoroz just bursts the world wide open. Not only do we get to explore the entire continent, but we also get glimmers of the world beyond.

The only disappointment with the world is that each country is a thinly veiled one from our world. Izmoroz is clearly Russian/Eastern European, Uaine is Scottish (definitely not the kind of Scotland I’d like to visit, though), Kante is Germanic, Raíz is Spanish, and then there’s the continent across the ocean that seems to be Middle Eastern inspired, though I could be wrong. There were no pains taken to hide any of it. Indeed, Skovron used words from the respective languages to further cement the parallels.

On the other hand, the thinly disguised countries did make it a lot easier to ease into this world and figure it out. It felt comforting and familiar while also adding a layer of unrest and political intrigue that could really shine. I liked that the world building seemed simple and was easy enough to figure out and remember in order to better focus on the story. I really, really loved that this book cracked the world wide open, and can’t wait to see where we go in the last book.

Many Excellent Threads

I really enjoyed The Queen of Izmoroz. I enjoyed the first book, but I think I loved this one more. There was so much going on, so many intricacies, and even some traitorous deeds. I felt the whole story was handled with a deft hand and I never felt I could really predict what was going to happen. The sibling story continues to be well done and all of the characters were wonderful and quite human. I loved getting to see the wider world and how it helped to paint a bigger picture of people’s feelings about the empire. I can’t wait to see what the last book has in store for readers.

How many cups of tea will you need?

4 cups

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Thank you to Angela Man and NetGalley for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

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