The Two-Faced Queen (Legacy of the Mercenary King #2), by Nick Martell
The Hollows is gripped in unrest and on the brink of civil war as an insurgency of anarchists rise, and brother and sister vie for the throne in the second novel in the critically hailed Legacy of the Mercenary King series which Brandon Sanderson called “excellent.”
Michael Kingman thought he was going to die by the executioner’s axe, forever labeled as a traitor. Still alive, and under the protection of the Orbis Mercenary company, Michael and his family and friends are deeply involved in the seemingly rival conspiracies that are tearing The Hollows apart. With the death of the King, both the Corrupt Prince and his sister Serena are vying for the throne, while the Rebel Emperor is spreading lies amongst the people, and all of them want Michael dead. This is a story of betrayal, murder, and rebellion, and in this direct sequel to the debut novel The Kingdom of Liars, also some hope for justice.
For readers who love the intrigue and widening scope of epic fantasy like Sanderson’s Mistborn and Week’s The Black Prism, you will find your next must-read fantasy series.
My Review (4.5 out of 5 )
The Kingdom of Liars surprised me for the good, being a great debut from Nick Martell, so The Two-Faced Queen is a book I picked with great expectations, and with a little bit of fear, as sometimes the second books tend to be the weakest in trilogies. Gladly, I can say that my fear was unfounded, and personally, I enjoyed this novel more than the first one, as it expanded several aspects of the world that were left short in The Kingdom of Liars.
Michael Kingman was almost executed accused of a crime he didn't commit, while trying to end the rebellion and clear the Kingman's family name. Now, his fate is bound to the mercenary Dark, tied to the Orbis Company. Hollow is on the border of a civil war, with an empty throne after the death of King Isaac; the Corrupt Prince and his sister Serena are competing for it, and the Rebel Emperor is trying to spread discontent among the people of Hollow. And every single of them wants to see Michael dead, for more or fewer reasons.
In this instance of the series, many of the characters we got to know in the first book get expanded, while some new ones are introduced. While the Corrupt Prince had a big spotlight in TKoL, in this novel it gets moved to Serena, who becomes a really interesting character, and a contradicting one due to her actions. Martell's certainly improved his work on the characters in this novel; and honestly, I loved getting to know the past of Dark, and how he became what he is.
The threat of a serial killer who has returned after many years terrorizes Hollow. And it adds more to the previously high stakes of this story; Michael's mission is really difficult, having to keep the name of his family, while at the same time avoiding being assassinated, not only by this killer, but also by the several people he has offended. He also needs to get more formation about Fabrications, and how to gain advantages from his Nullification fabrications.
Talking about Fabrications, the system gets better explained in this book, giving us more info about how different types appeared, and how it evolves. At the same time, more magical elements get introduced and explained in the world, such as dragons and Immortals, expanding the internal lore of it. Magic from other countries/places appears, and it is used as a foreshadowing of what could be shown in the third book, while also introducing the rest of the world to us.
I won't talk much about the plot, because I think part of the enjoyment of this book is on discovering and theorizing about the different secrets that are part of Hollow, but I have to admit that all the previous work done in the first book gets paid off in this one, engaging you. The pace is kinda irregular at some points, having the same structure as TKoL, with a slower first part used to build the foundations for an explosive second half. Martell also shows his talent to write impactful scenes, shocking you with the outcome of some of them (and honestly, each time Serena takes the spotlight is highly memorable).
The Two-Faced Queen is an excellent sequel to TKoL, and proof that Martell has the talent to write epic fantasy. I loved the fact that despite being epic fantasy, the whole novel is circumscribed to one city, proving that there isn't the necessity for a big world to write epic fantasy. At this point, I just wonder how will be The Voyage of the Forgotten, because for sure I want to spend more time with Michael Kingman.
Nick Martell was born in Ontario, Canada before moving to the United States at age 7. After graduating high school on Long Island, he majored in Creative Writing at Pennysylvania’s Susquehanna University. He started writing novels regularly in fifth grade, and his debut novel, The Kingdom of Liars, sold when he was 23 years old. Currently, he lives outside Allentown.