In a few weeks, we’ll release our top books of 2019 list! This has been a strong year for fantasy and sci-fi; with a number of powerful debuts, and the countless sequels and new releases made narrowing down our list very difficult. However, one debut that has definitely earned a spot on the list is For the Killing of Kings, by Howard Andrew Jones. A stunning take on a number of classic fantasy tropes, this book burst onto the scene in February of this year and secured a spot on our top 2019 picks (the review can be found here). Interestingly though, Jones has managed to put out the second book in his trilogy, Upon the Flight of the Queen, just last week, and given my love of book one, I jumped right into it. Unfortunately, in this particular instance lightning does not strike twice.
Upon the Flight of the Queen, or Queen for short, is an enjoyable book that fails in a number of the traditional responsibilities of a sequel novel. Kings introduced a fantastic world to explore, a large cast of complex and interesting characters, a political hierarchy that dripped with intrigue, and high stakes that got you invested. The first book did an amazing job of pulling you in and telling a cohesive part of a multi-part story. It was nicely self-contained, and although there is still a looming threat at the end of the book, you got the sense that there was a fully fleshed out start-to-end narrative in the book. Queen, on the other hand, felt more like “DLC” for Kings than an actual fully fleshed out novel.
Queen hit the ground running, picking up in the aftermath of the end of book one and focusing primarily on cleaning up lingering plot points from Kings. However, it doesn’t feel like it really has a cohesive story of its own other than turning the tide in one long three-hundred-page battle. It follows a similar set of POVs from the initial book (Elenai and Rylin for those keeping track), but adds a few new ones as the story progresses. One of Kings’ strongest characteristics to me was its excellent pacing and balance between the POVs, spending the perfect time with each before alternating. In book two, instead of being a strength, the pacing is a weakness with the POVs feeling choppy and unbalanced. I felt like I was riding in an unsecured pickup bed on the highway and being flung about. In addition, the powerful worldbuilding in Kings is expanded upon in Queen, but it feels like a footnote and I found myself eating up huge amounts of pages without actually understanding more about the world. However, it isn’t all bad as the character development in Queen continues to be phenomenal. Although I didn’t enjoy that the book was one long war scene, I did enjoy the complex character arcs that it put all of the cast through. There was powerful and meaningful growth with almost everyone and it kept me invested when I thought other elements of the book were falling short.
In the end, Upon the Flight of the Queen is a fun and captivating book that I enjoyed. However, it fails as a sequel to For the Killing of Kings by not appropriately progressing the story, not standing on its own as a complete narrative, and declining in some areas that were strengths in the first book. I still absolutely recommend that everyone pick up this series and give it a spin, but I am hoping that Jones pulls out the stops for book three and returns the narrative to the high bar he set with the first entry.
Rating: Upon the Flight of the Queen – 7.0/10