Monarch of Lightning by Danith Mcpherson

On the eve of announcing her pregnancy, Janvian witnesses the assassination of her husband. Now a monarch of Lorcha carrying the next heir to the throne, Janvian realizes even the order of mystics tasked with keeping order won’t be able to protect her and her baby. Following the instructions in her great-grandfather’s tales, she seeks sanctuary in the wild frontier with the mythical Mirage Clan.

During Janvian’s year of absence, it falls to Janvian’s sister Rozel and uncle to keep civil war from breaking out. Rozel soon realizes to keep her sister’s throne safe means playing a game of politics she is ill suited for. But soon they uncover a web of intrigue, making it harder to discern friend from foe.

This is a fast moving epic tale that combines many elements of sci-fi and fantasy. I liked many of the characters—reckless Rozel as a foil to Janvian’s careful politicking—and the relationships that develop.  The planet has a harsh climate and game of Thrones style politics. Formal wear that doubles as body armor is a very nice worldbuilding touch.

The fat moving story and travelling characters allow us to see a lot of the world in a way that feels organic. I was able to keep all of the characters straight, which in an epic tale with a lot of POV hopping is hard to do.

As in all epics I read, I have one plot thread I love and get grumpy whenever we leave it, a plot thread I enjoy and want to see more of, and then maybe a thread or side character I shrug at. There are places where the story should have slowed down. In one instance there is a couple where one party subtly expressed interest, and the next time we grab their plot thread they two are dating. I like both characters and enjoying romance scenes is my guilty pleasure, so I wish we would have seen the relationship develop on the page.

It is clear this is meant to be the first in a series, with many plot threads, characters, and intrigue introduced.  Almost too much. More is being introduced in this book than can be developed properly. This is a rare novel that I feel needed another 100 pages.

A lot of Darkover elements were familiar to me—a harsh planet with past devastation caused by dangerous tech they are trying to prevent from being made again, and a people navigating relationships with a space travelling government. The Mystics are basically telepaths more removed from society.

While drama does drive story, this has the assumption a harsh environment creates harsh politics. It could just as easily create a society that cooperates and shares resources, due to it being a matter of life and death. They also could have developed a system for settling conflict before it becomes violent. Despite the shortcomings, I did enjoy this novel and look forward to the second one.

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