Review copy provided by the publisher.
This sequel to A Strange and Stubborn Endurance doesn’t strictly require reading the first volume, but it’ll help a lot, because this is a book about next chapters. Velasin now lives in a place where he can be out as a man who loves men, where he can be married and have his marriage not only accepted but the basis for a political alliance. He and his new husband Caethari are just getting settled into their marriage, with all the complications that come from cross-cultural relationships in the public eye, when they have to travel to the capital city to meet the monarch and deal with court–something Cae never wanted to do in the first place and Vel is not very well prepared for.
Oh, and someone is trying to kill them. And/or break up their marriage. So that’s fun.
We even know a bit of who/why, because we run into that person early, and the suspense of where they are and what they’re doing is part of the early tension of the book. Once they do show up clearly, figuring out which way he will jump next only ratchets the tension up further. This is fundamentally a very political book, where politics are the interaction of human motivation and relationship, and having another character to be a dark mirror for motivations of the ones we already had adds depth and places to reflect. This is the kind of fantasy that has a light touch with magic, all the better to spend more time on speculative societies and politics, and I like it that way.
One of the things that starting with the first book will make clear is that this is a series that is dealing with consent and its grey areas and the fallout that sometimes comes from not being careful about those. If you are not interested in reading explicit sex scenes whose participants did not always manage consent well, this is not the book for you, please take the content warnings on the introductory page seriously. This is not a book that endorses the grey areas of consent, and in fact it does a lot more with “hey, these things can have lingering effects” than some books that are a lot less careful about warning about them. But these elements continue to be explicitly present, and readers should carefully manage when, how, and whether they want to encounter them.