Book Review: The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings
Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press (March 23, 2021)
Length: 592 pages
Wow, so that all just happened! Last year, Nick Martell’s The Kingdom of Liars surprised me, and now its follow-up The Two-Faced Queen has done it again, in the best way possible. Few things please me more as a reader than to have a sequel not only live up to its predecessor but also surpass it, and this is what we have here.
The story picks up soon after the events of The Kingdom of Liars, and be advised this review may discuss plot details from the previous book if you haven’t read it yet. Our protagonist Michael Kingman, accused of killing the king, had thought he would be facing execution but instead finds himself apprenticed to Dark, an assassin of the Orbis Corporation. But while this may have earned him a momentary reprieve, Michael isn’t out of the woods yet. A whole slew of people in the kingdom still wants him dead, and some of them sit in pretty high places, including Serena, known as the Two-Faced Queen. She and Michael used to be childhood friends, but all that ended after he was implicated in the death of her father. Now she only has room in her heart for revenge and will hear none of Michael’s claims of innocence.
As Serena and her brother are locked in a power struggle for the throne, however, the Rebel Emperor has been taking advantage of this unrest to sow even more chaos around the Hollow. In his work with Dark, Michael has been tasked to investigate some of the mayhem caused by the rebellion’s siege on the city, leading them onto the trail of a brutal serial killer known as Heartbreaker because of the way he rips the hearts out of his victims’ chests.
Ah, and the plot thickens! I will confess, one surefire way to hook me into a story is to throw in a murder mystery. Generally speaking, that kind of thing usually leads to increased interest, which is exactly what happened as the more intense pacing and elevated suspense meant I was all in on this hunt for the killer. This was also an improvement over the first book which was marred in places by prolonged lulls and confused, meandering threads. On the whole, this aspect of The Two-Faced Queen seemed more focused and balanced, the story racing along at a more energetic pace, not to mention all the unexpected reveals and surprises along the way! Now, I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll just say this: Dragons!
The characterization was also much improved. Recall how in The Kingdom of Liars, my impression of Michael was that he was a frustrating and impulsive protagonist, and I hated the way he was constantly being manipulated. While some of this could have been explained by the memory-degrading effects of doing magic in this world, it was undeniable that much of his irresponsible behavior was also driven by his own stupidity. Well, you’ll be glad to hear that Michael’s personality has matured somewhat in this sequel. He still has his flaws, of course, but he has also learned to recognize his weaknesses (plus, it helped that this book provided a new perspective, putting some of Michael’s actions and motivations from the first book in a whole new light).
As well, I am practically squirming with excitement over the more developed relationships. I’m especially interested in what’s happening between Michael and Serena and the direction things are headed with them, as in many ways they remind me of Imriel and Sidonie from Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel Legacy (and those who’ve read the series will probably know why my eyes are completely glued on these two!)
Then there’s the writing, and Nick Martell is doing extremely well in perfecting his craft. His prose has definitely smoothed out, and I feel there’s less of a reliance on overused tropes. However, the world-building still feels a bit sparse, and it may be just a matter of knowing how and when to flesh things out. Occasionally, I still had trouble visualizing the environment, but I was not as distracted by it this time around, since the story kept me better engaged.
Anyway, I know I’ve already covered the many areas in which this book showed improvement over its predecessor, but there is still one final, very important measure I need to discuss, and that is my outlook for the future of this series. When I finished The Kingdom of Liars, I felt encouraged and cautiously optimistic for the sequel. When I finished The Two-Face Queen, however, it was with unadulterated, full-blown excitement for what’s going to come next! A lot happened in this book—some readers might even say too much—but the fuller, more riveting storyline was honestly quite enjoyable for me, and the last half was especially packed with intrigue and potential.
Overall, it would seem that my faith in the author was not misplaced. Nick Martell is well on his way to becoming a huge talent in the world of fantasy fiction. These first two volumes of The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings series have already made quite a splash with me, and things just keep looking better and better. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Kingdom of Liars (Book 1)