This is a good example of Moral Dissonance
at its height. Does every book set in a fantasy world really have to have a protagonist with modern values? Coming hot on the heels of Hekat in Empress
, whom Miller really made come to some sort of self-awareness through struggle and end up a convincing product of her society, Rhian's opinions are simply handwaved. Nothing is done to really show her coming to an awareness of feminism in a paternalistic culture. There are no women in high places (except an abbess) to set an example. Mijak at least has female warriors, so there was a convincing reason for Hekat to become a soldier.
Authors in modern fantasy fiction are obviously striving to include strong female characters. However, some either fail to make gender a non-issue and to give them more subtle reasons for contesting a civil war, or give that character no visible way of coming to the realisation that they are regarded as a second-class citizen and earn their position. Rhian goes too quickly from princess to queen and comes across as a 21st century westerner dumped into Swordsandsorceryland - which makes the plot very boring because we don't see, unlike with Hekat, how she really challenges the men around her to take her seriously in the first place. Just because
is not a good enough reason for a character to be completely at odds with their society's values. Why did Eberg educate her beyond her station when he had two perfectly good sons? I have no problem with this concept - maybe he foresaw their premature deaths in the same way that Dexterity received his visions - but it needs to be made clear.
Marlan is too transparent a character to exist either. As written, he is one-dimensionally evil and that makes his story just as boring as Rhian's; again, we don't see his journey either, particularly why he is a priest that doesn't believe in God. That would have been a book in its own right.
A very disappointing continuation to the excellence of Empress
and although it is a good quick read, it really is just a 'There and Back Again' story with a bit of convenient deus ex machina at the end. I had high hopes after Empress
but now can't really be bothered to finish it.