I’m not going to lie, I’ve been waiting for this book since I finished The Prince’s Poison Vow last years. Check out my review here. Today, we have the second book of the Infernal War series, The Emperor’s Bone Palace, and hoy howdy, it definitely lives up to the first book. And now, I’m probably going to have to wait another year to read it. I don’t know whether to curse Hailey Turner or not. Probably not.
OK, for those who are unfamiliar with the series, it is a high fantasy/sword and sorcery/steampunk epic. And I do very much mean epic. It spans several main characters, countries, and viewpoints. While there are a lot of POVs in the book, Hailey has given each character a distinct enough voice that you have no problem with distinguishing one voice from the next. This is also a very queer positive book. Of the 4 main couples, we have one FF, one MF, and two MM. The gender of partners doesn’t really matter to anyone, unless it comes to getting an heir, but I’m sure there are ways around that.
Quick refresher. This takes place in Maricol, and they worship star gods, who directly intervene in the lives of the people. In Maricol, there are revenants who are the walking dead, created by spores. The Wardens guard the borders and kill the revenants. They are tithed from all nations and become nameless when they go for training. If and when they survive their training, they get a new name.
Maricol is broken up into different kingdoms. Right now, Ashion is being ruled from Danjal by Eimarille, who was the heir to the Ashion throne, but when the Daijal ruling family destroyed the family in the Inferno, they took her for legitimacy. Then there is E’ridia, which is the mountains, and has air superiority through their airships. They also have a very Celtic feel. The last important country we have is Solaria, which is ruled by Emperor Vanya, who is one of our main characters. The others are Eimarille, Caris, Soren, Blaine, Honovi, Nathaniel, and Terilyn. The couples break down into Eimarille and Terilyn, Blaine and Honovi, Soren and Vanya, and Caris and Nathaniel.
This book starts out with Eimarille crowning herself. She is now officially the Queen of Daijal, and sort of Ashion. She has plans within plans, between plans, with backup plans, and plans on the side. She is going to take over all of Maricol, and be queen of it all. Eimarille has been planning this for literal decades, and has been moving pawns around on the board for almost as long. She is wily as fuck.
Caris, along with Blaine and Honovi, is on the run from Amari, the capital city of Ashion. She used starfire, which outed her as a royal. And now everyone either wants her to be the queen of Ashion or die. Caris, having been raised by a small noble family, just wants to go into the family business and be an engineer. But, that’s not her road.
Vanya has survived an assassination attempt by the rionetka, which are people who have had their hearts cut out and replaced with a clockwork heart and magic. They are basically meat puppets. Because of this attempt on his life and the attempted kidnapping of his daughter and heir, he sends her off with Soren, a warden with a secret. Soren is the only person Vanya trusts with his daughter.
There is so much intrigue going on here. Really, everything is all twisty. There are levels and layers and twists and turns and corkscrews. There are betrayals, unexpected loyalties, death, so much death, and intense love.
I think, at the heart of this series, even with all the intrigue, betrayals, and planning, is love. It’s all about love of country, love of a partner, love of a family, so on and so forth. We really see that in our prime couples and in the things that they do. There aren’t a whole lot of sex scenes, and they are used to good effect, but there are a lot of those deeply intimate love scenes where you get to see exactly how much the characters love each other and what they are willing to do for their loved one. Sometimes it seems to be eavesdropping to read the scenes. The marriage torc scene was one of those for me.
The book is also intense. There were a couple of times when I had to go search ahead for a character to make sure that they made it through the end of the book in more or less one piece. I also had to put it down a couple of times and do something else because I just felt sooooooo much. And I will fully admit to crying more than once while reading.
Anyway, if you love adventuring, fantasy, steampunk, magic, fantastic character development, great world building, and epic storytelling, you definitely need to go pick this one up.
I know it seems like I haven’t said a lot about the fully story, but if I were to talk too much about it, it would totally spoil everything.