Inos might be queen of Krasnegar, but she’s been magicked to the other side of the world, and the same magic has sent stable boy Rap, the goblin Little Chicken, and boy thief Thinal to the land of Faery, where Rap discovers that Inos is a pawn in a deadly game between powers greater than any army or king.
Faery Lands Forlorn is the second book in Dave Duncan’s A Man of His Word series, and it’s clear that none of these books is meant to stand alone. It picks right up where Magic Casement left off, and ends with another cliffhanger.
Duncan’s skill at world-building is astonishing. Here, he creates a desert kingdom in thrall to a dockside whore turned sorceress, with a political structure that’s as complicated as I’ve ever seen. He also manages to make Faery feel like a real place, without relying on hoary imagery or any flitting and floating. His faeries are coal black, from skin to hair to the blacks of their eyes, and they live in a state of existential slavery. His writing is highly evocative and visual.
An almost unbearable suspense hangs over Rap’s quest, in the form of the goblin Little Chicken, who’s submitted to the goblin code demanding that he become Rap’s “trash” after losing to Rap in a fair fight. Only the gods can free Little Chicken–but once Little Chicken is free, he will use his superhuman strength to bring Rap back to his village and torture Rap to death in order to earn a new name and regain his standing with his people. Rap believes that the gods will free Little Chicken if Little Chicken saves Rap’s life, but Rap can’t kill Little Chicken because the warden of the North has commanded him not to. It’s a bind that Rap can’t see his way out of.
Meanwhile, in Azzakaran, Inosolan needs to break free of the whore witch Rasha and return to Krasnegar to claim her rightful throne. In order to do so, she must ally with the gelded sultan Azak, a man for whom women are only vessels to produce sons. She can’t get Azak’s attention, let alone respect, and she’s beginning to realize that a throneless queen is a powerful captive.
And there is a dragon, though a very wee one. Must stop blogging so I can get to reading book three.