Book Review: The Lady

The Lady by K.V. Johansen, Marakand #2

In the days of the first kings in the North, there were seven devils…

Possessed by a ghost who feeds on death, the undying assassin Ahjvar the Leopard has been captured by the Lady of Marakand, enslaved by necromancy to be captain of her Red Masks. His shield-bearer Ghu, a former slave with an uncanny ability to free the captive dead, follows Ahjvar into the war-torn lands of the Duina Catairna to release him, even if that means destroying what is left of Ahj’s tormented soul.

Deyandara, the last surviving heir of the Catairnan queen, rides into a land ravaged by disease and war, seeking the allies she abandoned months before, though they have no hope of standing against the army led by the invulnerable Red Masks of Marakand and the divine terror of the Lady.

In the city of Marakand, former enemies ally and old friends seek one another’s deaths as loyalists of the entombed gods Gurhan and Ilbialla raise a revolt, spearheaded by the Grasslander wizard Ivah, the shapeshifting Blackdog, and the bear-demon Mikki. The Lady’s defences are not easily breached, though, and the one enemy who might withstand her, the Northron wanderer Moth, bearer of the sword Lakkariss, has vanished.
  


It was earlier this year that I was introduced to The Leopard by K.V. Johansen, the first book in the Marakand series which shared the earlier world of her Blackdog book. I am a sucker for good cover art and Pyr really pulled the plugs on The Leopard, take a look for yourself! Anyway, besides the cover art the story of The Leopard was very cool to say the least and luckily for me The Leopard could easily be read as a new introduction to the Marakand universe, you hadn't needed to read Blackdog. K.V. Johansen did leave the story of The Leopard on a cliffhanger and luckily the wait is over, as The Lady will be released this December. I really liked that Pyr pushed this book forward in publishing and that K.V. Johansen managed to write it so fast, often times you have to wait a year or even more for a the sequel!

The Lady is the direct sequel to The Leopard and picks up after those events. I therefore do urge you to start with The Leopard as otherwise this book won't make any sense. The first book focused a lot on Ahjvar and Ghu, but The Lady offers a nice emphasis on some players that haven't seen that much "screentime" yet. Most of the story is once again contained within the boundaries of the city of Marakand. The essence of the story of The Lady is about removing the Lady out of the picture. Get her of the streets of Marakand but this is more easily said than done as the Lady has a large army of Red Masks at her disposal. These Red Masks are worthy opponents, opponents that even the mighty wizard Ivah, Blackdog and Mikki fear as they are said to be invulnerable. The person that leads this opposition if Deyandara who you perhaps can still recall from the first book. *hint* Deyandara was the messenger of the Goddess Catairanach who set the bargain of Ahjvar of getting rid of the Voice of Marakand in exchange for removing the curse that binds him. 

As you could already make up from the synopsis of the book is that the once powerful assassin Ahjvar, better known as the Leopard, was caught by the Lady, Ahjvar has been made the general of the Lady's Red Mask army. But Ahjvar isn't wholly alone as his loyal friend Ghu, tracks Ahjvar down in the hope to free him with he gift. Ghu has the ability to set free any captured souls. 

These two short explanations of the story doesn't come close to do justice to the whole story of The Lady but I unfortunately can't day more as this is a direct sequel and this is the second part of the duology so everything does go down in this book. Let me just say that there is a lot going on between the different parties involved be it the Grasslander wizard with Blackdog, of Deyandara or Ahjvar and Ghu it's all a very well thought out and solid story that in the end comes greatly together as one whole. This really is the Epic Fantasy that you should be reading. It might not be a book for everything as some parts are a bit heavy but this is well worth your time if you are into Epic Fantasy I think you will be amazed by the power of the story. When you sit back and let the whole story sink you will only appreciate everything much more.

K.V. Johansen narration in The Lady did feel a bit different than when I read The Leopard but not in a bad way at all. Early on in the book you feel that the tension is growing and growing until it cannot any more. I think mainly due to the fact that a lot actions and decisions that were made in the first book were seeing the respective reactions coming to show that it felt different. The Leopard already showed a lot of action, and in The Lady it is all ramped up once again. However not with everything in a confronting manner perse like sword fighting or wizard battles. There are some scenes on confrontations that are very much like powerplays but none that feature heavy magical scenes but very clever nudges here and there making the games played actually much much stronger as you never really know what might happen or that one of the involved parties might explode and thereby escalade everything further. K.V. Johansen has a very nice writing style that readily involves you as a reader. 

There are a lot of styles of Epic Fantasy and I like it big and bold and this is precicsely what is shown in The Lady. It  draws both influences from the older Epic Fantasy and from the new style what you currently see. This really create a unique sense to the story of The Lady. Take for example this part of the story: "In the days of the first kings in the North, there were seven devils…" This sentence is of high influence of the story added to this comes a might array of sword and sorcery, wizards, assassin and epic magic battle. Next to these seven devils there were also seven wizards... Not only does a simple wizard or assassin or devil make an impact it is also how you use them and for me a big plus is how you name them. This and a lot more are used just spot on in the book. Just very cool, reminds me a lot of the names that Steven Erikson gave his characters in The Malazan Empire of the Fallen just by this you know that they are not to be messed with.

Another thing to the Marakand series and which again comes nice to the forefront in The Lady is the world building. This world that features in this book has a lot of eastern influences, this is clearly notable by the exotic surrounding you are introduced both within the city and outside the city with the caravanseria. You can find out a lot more on the guest blog of "What shaped Marakand's epic fantasy, that K.V. Johansen wrote for the blog. 

The Lady is a action packed, edge of your seat conclusion to this part of the Marakand series. Yes correct this part of the Marakand series. There are some loose bits at the end of The Lady that just scream for exploration. All in all K.V. Johansen has written a very solid entry in Epic Fantasy with both The Leopard and The Lady, they have the classical Epic Fantasy influences but combined with the snappy and fast pacing of current style. I do have to admit that there is a lot going on in both of the books that can be overwhelming to others but once you get through it these book are most rewarding they feature a lot of cool stuff that Epic Fantasy fans can't get enough of. I couldn't. I hope to see much more books with these character, you know they are powerful and are up to something!

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