Monday, 12 September 2016

The Tattooed Duchess by Victor Gischler

Title: The Tattooed Duchess
Series: A Fire Beneath the Skin (#2)
Author: Victor Gischler
From: Netgalley
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: 7th July 2015
Challenges: 2016 Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge, 2016 Blogger ShameSummer COYER 2016, 2016 Prequel & Sequel Challenge (2 points)
Links: Goodreads - Amazon
Synopsis (from Goodreads): In the second installment of the A Fire Beneath the Skin trilogy, Rina Veraiin has youth, beauty, and strength. She is a born warrior, able to outride any man, deal death with her fierce blade, and command awesome and mysterious forces granted to her by a set of magical tattoos. Now as the newly minted duchess of Klaar, Rina confronts a menace that threatens her world in a divine conflict that will push her newfound abilities to their limits. As sinister and magical forces unite against her, Rina’s only chance at stopping them is to gain new tattoos that will increase her powers beyond anything she has known before. United with her few trusted companions, she makes her desperate quest across a bloodshed-ravaged land while war brews among the gods. With the enchanted world of Helva hanging in the balance, Rina must learn to wield extraordinary power to save herself and her people, before unimaginably powerful forces—and the savage fury of the gods—tear apart the land forever.

The Tattooed Duchess is book 2 of A Fire Beneath the Skin and it is necessary to have read the first book, Ink Mage, which contains the backstory and a lot of the lore surrounding the magic in the universe Gischler created. This review may contain spoilers for book 1, Ink Mage

The Tattooed Duchess was a good read, though about half way through and then again before the end I did start lagging a bit, though that could have been more to do with the mood I was in than anything else. Overall while I thought it was good I didn't think it was quite as good as the first book. 

After the events of book 1, Rina starts consolidating power in her newly returned kingdom which has many problems of its own. Her kingdom is a fairly liberal one, which allows her to reward the people who helped her get Klaar back even if they had previously been people of disrepute. However it didn't quite allow her to follow her heart. 

The romance in The Tattooed Duchess was very subtle and followed on from Rina and Alem acting on their mutual attraction in Ink Mage. However their divide in status plays on both of their minds and leads to some events that had me cursing at them simply because of a miscommunication. As of the end of the book I'm not all that sure how I felt about their relationship as I went through phases of thinking it was sweet, followed by being annoyed about how they acted. 

I liked the fact that instead of introducing a lot of new characters Gischler chose to expand some of the more minor characters from Ink Mage. While Alem, Maurizan, Brasley and Rina were all still followed as lead characters, the wizard, Talburn returned and became more fleshed out, as did some of the characters surrounding Tosh. 

The magic system is absolutely fascinating. Having an actual wizard as a bigger character allowed Gischler to explore that system more, whereas the tattoos took a little bit more of a back seat but were still important to Rina and a true driving force. 

There is however a larger story arc in play! However I am feeling slightly anxious about reading book 3, The Painted Goddess, especially as it seems to have very mixed reviews.