It’s been two and a half years since I read the first two books in The Scarred Earth Saga. You can go here to read the reviews. While all of the series’ details weren’t immediately available in my mind, I did remember that I’d really enjoyed The Blacksmith Queen and The Princess Knight, which made winning a copy of The Heretic Royal through Goodreads especially exciting.
Gods save the queen!
Ainsley Farmerson has always planned to break free of the family business—and the family drama. But what was once farming, smithworking, and bickering over the dinner table has turned into open warfare between sisters. Sides have been taken, lives are on the line, and Ainsley has no doubt which sister must be queen. She’ll do whatever is necessary to take down the soulless Beatrix. Even if that means joining forces with angry battle nuns, irritating monks, and overbearing centaurs.
Gruffyn of the Torn Moon Clan has no time for human beings. And yet . . . there is something about the uncontrollable princess that he can’t ignore. Maybe it’s the way her eldest sisters underestimate her. Or her bravery facing down dragons and mad queens from distant lands. Whatever the reason, Gruff is willing to fight by this human’s side. Not only for the entertainment value, but because she’s right. Beatrix must never be queen. So whatever he has to do, whoever he has to destroy, Gruff will battle beside Ainsley. Fast. Hard. And with absolutely no mercy . . .
I don’t use star-rating here on the blog. But I often do when I cross-post to Goodreads. When I look at this series, I see that I gave The Blacksmith Queen a 5* rating, The Princess Knight a 4* rating, and I’ll give The Heretic Royal a 3* rating. I loved book one, but have liked each subsequent book less and less. The reason was especially apparent here in The Heretic Royal.
These books are fun. The characters are zany. The world is full of fantasy creatures. The writing is sharp and witty. But the series has also always been chaotic. That’s part of the fun. But as the series progresses, the balance between utter chaos and substantive plot is faltering. Here in this third book, there is almost no plot progression at all. Aiken leans very heavily on the chaotic good of the characters and brings in a whole host of new crazy characters. And here is where my main problem arises.
All these characters? They’re the characters from her Dragon Kin series. So, here, three books into a series, we suddenly have a series mash-up. These new characters from an old series took up most of this book, and, as a result, the characters from this series were cast in shadow. We got little more than surface interactions with any of them.
That’s without even considering how it felt to come to this book as someone who has not read Dragon Kin (which I think is 9 books and several novellas long), didn’t know or care about the characters, and didn’t know to expect this sudden influx of new, unrelated characters.
To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I still like the author and am hoping the series balances out because I want to reclaim that feeling from book one.