Saturday, September 8, 2012

Prisoner of the Iron Tower - Tears of Artamon #2 - Sarah Ash

Gavril Nagarian has finally cast out the dragon-daemon from deep within himself. The Drakhaoul is gone—and with it all of Gavril’s fearsome powers. Though no longer besieged by the Drakhaoul’s unnatural lusts and desires, Gavril has betrayed his birthright and his people. He has put the ice-bound princedom of Azhkendir at risk and lost.

Emerging from his battle with the Lord Drakhaon scarred but victorious, Eugene of Tielen exacts a terrible price. He arrests the renegade warlord Gavril Nagarian for crimes against the Rossiyan Empire and sentences him to life in an insane asylum—for the absence of the Drakhaoul is slowly driving Gavril mad. But Eugene has another motive as well. He longs to possess the Drakhaoul—at any cost to his kingdom and his humanity. With Gavril locked inside the Iron Tower, three women keep his memory alive. His mother returns to the warmer climes of her homeland, where she foments the seeds of rebellion. A young scullery maid whose heart is broken by Gavril’s arrest sends her spirit out to the Ways Beyond. And even the emperor’s new wife is haunted by her remembrances of the handsome young painter who once captured her soul.

The five princedoms of a shattered empire are reunited. The last of Artamon’s ruby tears adorns Eugene’s crown. But peace is as fragile as a rebel’s whisper—and a captive’s wish to be free.

In this enthralling second part of the Tears of Artamon series, we get a little more insight in the actual Tears of Artamon, the rubies that the Great Artamon left behind, and the legend that goes with it.  As I said before: I’m a big, big fan of legends, history and voices from the past. I’m thrilled that the story revolves around this fascinating history of the Rossiyan Empire.

And once again, there’s this wonderful character building. I’ve said it in the review about the first book and I’ll say it again about this one: some people just keep on surprising you.
For instance: we get to follow Eugene and his life as the newly crowned Emperor of New Rossiya. I have to be honest, I didn’t like Eugene at all in the first book. I just can’t understand what gives certain people the right to say “Oh, won’t you look at that, that piece of land over there, I want it and I’ll take it. Because I can.” But now I’ve seen another side to Eugene. He’s actually quite nice. If he hadn’t had that unbearable urge to power, he would have been a monarch loved by everyone. Throughout the book I always wanted to give Eugene the benefit of the doubt, but he kept on pushing the good man in him aside, ‘because an Emperor has no such feelings’. That’s a shame, really, I think he’ll regret that.
Also, Eugene’s first reaction to Kiukiu’s name made me laugh out loud, because that’s exactly what I thought the first time I heard the name, which I mentioned in my earlier review!

There were some really cruel scenes in this book and I was waiting for someone to rescue the person who was suffering all these horrible things. But there was no rescue and I was positively surprised. In about all the books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen, there’s always something that’s about to happen to the main character and they always get saved at the last moment and they get away with just some cuts and bruises. In reality, there’s no such thing. It’s not likely you’ll get saved at the last minute. That fact gives this book so much more credibility than all the others. A big thumbs up.

Another thing I’d really like to mention is how much I was invested in this story. I really felt like I belonged to the world Ms Ash created, that I was part of this incredible cast of people. When she described the Smarnan revolution, the adrenaline coursed through my body. I was ready to jump up and wave the Smarnan flag while chanting along with the other revolutionaries. I felt for the cause, I wanted them to succeed. I wanted them to be free.
And that’s exactly one of the main things that makes a good book: you have to be sucked into the story and feel like you’re living alongside the characters. These are the stories that stick with you and ten years from now, you’ll still remember that one tale about Gavril, Kiukiu, Eugene and Astasia. About the deamons and the Tears of Artamon. About the gate and the little Karila with the mysterious disease.

I’m completely in love with this series by now. I’d recommend it to everyone who’s into a darker side of fantasy and quality writing.


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