2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Cindy (Draumr Kópa)
- Published on Amazon.com
Review for both 'The Leopard' and 'The Lady'.
‘The Leopard’ and ‘The Lady’ are a two-book fantasy series set in the same world as ‚Blackdog’. The two books can be read without having read ‚Blackdog’, but I’d recommend reading that book first. I hadn’t read it when I started The Leopard and though it is a whole different story set in the same world, there are characters and reference to the story in ‚Blackdog’ that will be lost on anyone who hasn’t read that one.
‘The Leopard’ and ‘The Lady’ are one big book split in two. It is quite obvious this used to be one continuous story before it was split. The characters that start the story in ‘The Leopard’ disappear halfway through the story to give the stage to a whole new set of characters. I thought this was an interesting choice. The first set of characters set the whole story in motion and lead us to Marakand, one of the most important cities in the book. There another cast of characters takes over and continues the story in Marakand, while the others continue their journey to other parts of the country.
Their are two main story lines throughout the two books. The first is that of Deyandara, Ahjvar and Ghu. Deyandara is the bastard daughter of a Queen and the half sister of the High King. When her family is murdered by the forces of Marakand, the Goddess of her land, Catairanah, sends her to find The Leopard, an assassin, so she can execute revenge on Marakand. Ahjvar and his companion Ghu, though reluctant at first, follow her to Marakand.
Ahjvar, cursed by the Goddess Catairanah seeks only an end to the torment he has been going through for years. A murdering spirit lives inside him, wakening every other night, hungry for blood. Ahjvar story is a fascinating one. The details of his past unfold at the end of ‘The Lady’ and I was very satisfied by how he fit into the greater picture.
Ghu remains a mystery until the very end. As Ahjvar’s loyal companion, he first seems a bit slow at first, more a servant than anything else. But later on we find out that Ghu is much more than that and I thought it was fantastic how he slowly became a big force in the story, though he isn’t one of the most important characters at first.
The second storyline is that of the Lady of Marakand, who has corrupted the city. There are those who see through her deception and want to overthrow her, to bring back peace, prosperity and the rightful Gods to the city. They are a varied bunch those. Ivah is a wizard who has already made an appearance in ‚Blackdog’, while the Blackdog himself is also in the city. The demon bear (name) and his partner Moth have also arrived in the city, because Moth has a very specific and dangerous mission to complete. Together with the last priest of one of the old Gods they try to make an end to the Lady’s reign, but to do that they have to face the fearsome Red Masks first. And not just anyone can kill the Red Masks. The most interesting thing about this storyline though was in my opinion Zora’s perspective. Zora is a dancer in the temple of the Lady, but she’s actually still loyal to the old Gods. However, when the old Voice of the Lady is murdered, she is chosen to take her place. But instead of talking through The Voice, as the Lady has always done in the past, The Lady takes over Zora body, so she can have more control over the city. It is soon clear however that The Lady isn’t the Goddess she pretends to be. All these different souls/personalities in one body must cause some confusion and the author has depicted this wonderfully. The chapters told from The Lady/Zora’s perspective are incoherent, chaotic and sometimes difficult to follow. Though this may be jarring for some readers, I thought it was very fascinating and a very bold choice to use this kind of narrative.
Next to all these great characters and their fight for righteousness, the world building definitely also deserves a mention. A Middle-Eastern setting with interesting cultures and tribes gave the perfect background this story needed.
It was interesting to watch the story of the devils/wizards unfold. Starting the books, you know the story of the seven devils who merged their souls with that of the seven wizards and who were later imprisoned by the Gods and Goddesses of the land.
The devils tricked the wizards in joining their body to be able to roam the world and rule it. What they didn’t expect is that merging their soul with that of another being would change them as much as it would change the other. During the story we encounter a few of these devils and it’s interesting to see how different they’ve become and what road they want to walk on Earth.I loved how the Gods and Goddesses of the land were very flawed and also able to die. Though most are benign and want to help their folk and their land, they also make very human mistakes. The fact that they can be punished and can be killed made them kind of vulnerable. Though they are ethereal and command reverence, they still have a weak spot.
The story comes to a powerful conclusion in ‘The Lady’, giving us closure for both the major story lines. I was more than satisfied by the ending and the exciting action-filled last battles. Some of the characters seem set on a certain path after all that happened in Marakand and in the Duina Catairna, but some still have an interesting future ahead of them that could give rise to a continuation of their story.
The Marakand books were among my favourite reads of 2014. I enjoyed reading both of them very much. These books are a rich Epic Fantasy written in a complex, but beautiful writing style that is immensely captivating. I would recommend to first read ‚Blackdog’ before you start this two-parter. It will give you more background on some of the characters that is lacking in these books. Another tip is to really view these books as one and read them one after the other, it will give you a more coherent and fluent story.
Overall a series that I very much enjoyed and I will be keeping an eye out for more work from K.V. Johansen in the future!