Review: The Dread by Gail Z Martin

The Dread is the concluding volume in The Fallen Kings duology, which in turn is companion to The Chronicles of the Necromancer trilogy. It was published in February 2012. I read the Nook version.

The Blurb

War has come to the Winter Kingdoms. The Dread will rise. Kings will fall.
Summoner-King Tris Drayke takes what remains of his army north to fight a war he is ill-prepared to fight, as reports from spies confirm Tris’s worst fear. A new threat rises across the sea: a dark summoner who intends to make the most of the Winter Kingdoms’s weakness. And in Isencroft, Kiara’s father is assassinated and she will now have no choice except to return and claim the crown. But she must leave behind her husband Tris and their infant son and face the dark power that threatens her rule. THE DREAD is the epic conclusion to the Fallen Kings Cycle. [GoodReads]

My Review

Oh, this book and I have such a love-hate thing going on here. Except I don’t hate it. I just mildly dislike some of it. Oh, but I love it, too!

You see, I love the characters. I have had such hopes for the Warrior-Queen Kiara (no relation), ever since The Summoner. However, she never really lives up to her potential. For the first couple of books, she was fabulous. Then she ends up married, pregnant, and stuck as far from the battlefield as she could possibly get “for the sake of the heirs”. Sigh. Tris is a great character. Summoner and King, he is forced to balance his power against his morality. My favorite character, I think, has always been Jonmarc. He is quite the rogue, an ex-slave, and an excellent fighter. In this particular part of the series, though, I think my favorite is Aidane. She’s a serroquette – what is known as a “ghost whore” or one who can speak to and be possessed by ghosts. She reunites lovers parted by death for one last night together. In her homeland, she is hunted and if caught would be tortured and killed. She’s a remarkably complex character and one who stands up admirably under pressure.

The world is fascinating and filled with compelling characters that I would love to sit down with for a drink. I love them to pieces. It’s the plot I find myself scratching my head over. Take your pick: the enemies of the last two volumes are either a) a group of supernatural creatures b) foreigners compelled by a spell or c) Isencroft (domestic) traitors. Except, somehow, the answer is really some strange combination of all three. Plus, there’s a Ripper-esque serial killer, some rogue vampires, and an evil Summoner all seemingly working in collusion with each other for the downfall of all of the myriad heroes who’ve been introduced to us over the course of five books.

If you’re scratching your head about now, don’t feel too badly. So was I. It all sort of makes sense in context as you’re reading, but I really don’t understand the motivations of the bad guys here. I think it’s a matter of the opposition being underdeveloped. You see what they wanted, but not why they wanted it, and it leaves something essential lacking that would push the story from good to great.

That said, Martin is just as adept at epic, sweeping battle scenes as she is at brief, poignant glimpses into ones that tugs at the heart strings. Jonmarc’s thoughts at being off to war during the birth of his twins comes to mind, and likewise Tris’ reasoning for walking into death and also for effectively damning his own soul. You can see how Talwyn and Jair’s story will go, but that doesn’t make the ending any lighter for the reader. The poetic beauty of the words is so haunting that you can forget, for a time, that a lot of the plot doesn’t really make sense.

So. I love it. But it confuses me. I don’t regret reading it. Nor do I feel entirely comfortable recommending it to others. This is one you’re going to have to make your own decisions about, readers. I’m giving it 2 and 1/2 stars.

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