Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.
Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.
I’ve been wanting to read Range of Ghosts ever since I listened to a podcast interview with Elizabeth Bear a few months ago. I’d previously read Dust, which I remember liking a lot. Range of Ghosts is a fantasy set in ancient Mongolia/China– very different from Dust, which is a scifi story set way in the future on a spaceship. There are scary monsters, creepy twins, lots of wonderful worldbuilding and historical details, and great characters!
The characters are what made Range of Ghosts so great, actually. My favorite parts were the ones with Samarkar, the wizard who used to be a princess. I love magical school stories, and even though this isn’t technically one it still had the flavor of it, somewhat. Samarkar’s learning comes mostly through doing, which is way more exciting than sitting around in a classroom staring at a board all day. She rescues princes, defeats mystic warriors, and is basically a kick-ass character.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about her growing romance with Temur. On the one hand it’s totally adorable. They’re so sweet to each other! And they’re equals physically/mentally/socially. It’s pretty obvious they’re each charmed by the other one, and it’s great. On the other hand, Temur already has a “woman” (Edene) and by the end of the book they’re on the way to rescue her. So it’s a little shady. Don’t you think?
Speaking of Edene, the last few chapters with her chilled me to the BONE. Edene is another wonderful character who unfortunately spends most of the book being a prisoner of the (main?) villain. She’s also pregnant, and being seriously manipulated by the baddie, and now there’s some kind of demonic element which is super scary. Fingers crossed that she doesn’t die in the next book because that would immensely crappy.
I am definitely going to continue reading the series! Yay, Elizabeth Bear!
Read: November 16-22, 2014
This book is now a member of the 25+ Club! Woohoo!!