The Red-Stained Wings (Lotus Kingdoms #2) by Elizabeth Bear

RedStainedThe Red Stained Wings is the second instalment of the Lotus Kingdom series following on virtually immediately after the conclusion of The Stone In the Skull.  I loved the first book and so was really looking forward to this one and I’m pleased to say it doesn’t disappoint.  The Red-Stained Wings continues to provide a beautifully crafted world full of amazing and inspired beasts and some wonderfully deep, well rounded characters.  I would mention at this point that if you haven’t read the first in series this review may contain spoilers.  I would also suggest that you read the first in series before reading this one. I think that you could probably jump in and read this on it’s own as there is some backstory – very subtly provided – but I would recommend not skipping The Stone in the Skull.

The Stone in the Skull introduced to us four primary characters.  Two travellers on a mission and two ruling queens trying to save their people from disaster.  The Red Stained Wings sees them continuing in their endeavours.  The two travellers become divided, each with their own obligations.  One queen finds herself under siege and the other finds herself taken captive and desperately trying to find a way to recover her son.

I had a conundrum writing this review to be honest, not because of any fault in the story but more what to include and how to go about it.  At the end of the day this book is both similar and also dissimilar to the first.  The similarities obviously extend to the characters and place which are built on admirably here.  The dissimilarities occur because the partnership founded in the first book is broken apart here.  It was something of a risk in some respects because I really liked these two characters and the bonds they shared, but, I think it’s a risk that paid off because it allowed so much more to be incorporated and explored.

I’m not going to discuss the plot in this review for two reasons.  I want to err on the side of caution firstly and, secondly, I think the plot is not really the focus here – or, more to the point, this is much more a character driven story with some fascinating creatures and events inserted along the way.  I guess this does give the book, similar in fact to the first instalment, something of a slower pace.  This didn’t give me any issues to be honest because the world building and characters are so well done and this is all about the subtleties of politics.  Of course, if that sounds a little bit tame there are also plenty of fantastic critters from familiars, to gigantic floating insectile cities, a powerful, if slightly bemused and recently awakened Goddess, and even an ancient dragon – did I mention that the dragon talks? No??  The dragon talks.  *swoons clean away*

So, to the characters.  Mrithuri is Rajni of Sarathai-tia.  Her City is under siege and you can almost feel the weight of her burden, constantly having to maintain a brave face and boost morale whilst all the time fighting off an ever increasing panic.  Mrithuri has something of an addiction.  She relies on the poison of her pet snakes to boost her energy and increase her brain function.  Sayeh is Rajni of Ansh-Sahal, her city has fallen, her people now refugees, her son has been captured by one cousin and she has been taken prisoner by another, Anuraja – who is currently laying siege to Sarathai-tia in a bid to force Mrithuri into a marriage she doesn’t want.  There’s a complicated history involved in this world.  The Alchemical Emperor built a throne that not everyone could sit upon and used magic to protect his legacy.  The two Rajnis appear to have the will of the Gods on their side enjoying certain gifts such as an affinity with animals.  The males of the line don’t seem so well favoured and have tried to take matters into their own hands in order to take control.  Anuraja is, well, let’s be honest here, he’s not a very nice fella (to say the very least).  I could have joyfully strangled him (I’m not usually a violent person – truly) and the notion of anybody being forced into a marriage with him made me so angry.  The other antagonist is Himadra – oddly enough I quite liked him.  He’s one of those characters that isn’t fully good or bad, I like the ambiguity that he brings.  He has his own issues to deal with – being born with a brittle bone condition that leaves him vulnerable most of the time.  He’s also being manipulated by Anuraja and due to his inferior position is unable to do too much about it, but, like I said, I couldn’t find it within me to dislike him in fact I can’t help feeling like he’s going to play a much more significant role somewhere down the line.

Finally, the Dead Man and the Gage.  These two characters stole the show for me in the first book and then did the same thing again in this instalment.  Well, if I had to choose the Gage would be my overall favourite but the Dead Man also plays a good role – although he doesn’t get to go on an adventure like the Gage.  The Gage is in search of an artefact that means traversing across lands poisoned by dragons.  He’s the only one capable of making the journey and the interludes along the way make for compelling reading.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t really have any to be honest but I would mention that this isn’t a battle fuelled plot and some people may find it a little slow.  I enjoyed the depth of character and the strength of the world building so the pacing wasn’t really an issue but I would say this isn’t a quick read.  This is a book that demands your full attention.  It needs to be read with patience and respect and definitely isn’t a book that you’ll just pick up and breeze through.

I very much look forward to reading what comes next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  the above is my own opinion.



13 Responses to “The Red-Stained Wings (Lotus Kingdoms #2) by Elizabeth Bear”

  1. Tammy

    I don’t know why I haven’t started this series. I’m so glad you loved this second book. Where’s my time turner so I can sneak in more time to catch up?😉

    • @lynnsbooks

      I completely know where you’re coming from – there simply isn’t enough time for all the books – which is a real dilemma for people who want ALL the books.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Rebecca

    The Stone in the Skull has been in my Audible wish list for a few months now! Guess I know what I’ll be using my next credit on!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I hope you like it – it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I recognise that both books are heavily character focused which affects the pace.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    The first book didnt work quite as well for me, but I’m glad to hear you loved this one

    • @lynnsbooks

      I’m enjoying the series but I can’t deny that it feels like a slow read and I don’t know that it would be for everyone. It took me practically a week to read this and it felt very sluggish in parts – but then I like the attention that the author gives the characters so it’s that balance between pacing and characterisation I suppose.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Ack, a surprise copy of this one landed on my doorstep this week, a reminder of yet another series I really should read but haven’t started yet!

  5. Weekly Wrap Up : 9th June 2019 | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Red Stained Wings by Elizabeth Bear […]

  6. waytoofantasy

    I haven’t read any of her work yet but now that I’ve met her I feel like I must. I’ll probably start with Range of Ghosts though and then work my way over to this series. 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I love a good plan – especially when it comes together.
      Lynn 😀

  7. My favourite reads so far this year | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Red Stained Wings by Elizabeth Bear […]

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