Perhaps seeking to take advantage of the ever-increasing gaps between volumes of George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series, sci-fi publisher Tor has decided on a different marketing strategy for the four volumes of Sarah Kozloff’s “Nine Realms” tetralogy. “A Queen in Hiding” (496 pages, $12.99) came out in January, followed by “The Queen of Raiders” (509 pages, $16.99) and “A Broken Queen” (446 pages, $16.99) in February and March, with “The Cerulean Queen” (509 pages, $16.99) bringing the whole sequence rapidly to a climax in April.
Back in January, it wasn’t immediately clear who the “queen” of the titles would be. The realm of Weirandale is ruled by queens, not kings, but that is because each queen has a Talent. The late queen Catreena was a Strategist; her daughter Cressa has the power to change people’s minds, to make them believe, or forget.
But granddaughter Cerúlia—though she has the blue hair of the royal family—shows no sign of a special gift, and this provides an excuse for a palace coup led by Steward Matwyck. Queen Cressa and Princella Cerúlia flee in different directions. Cressa starts a guerrilla naval war against Pellish pirates, in the hope of gaining allies and supporters. Cerúlia, meanwhile, hides among villagers, where she has to stand up for herself without the protection of rank.
And as it happens, Cerúlia has a gift after all. When she said shyly that she could talk to her pony, no one took any notice: They thought she was being cute. But it was true; she can communicate with animals, tame or wild. A Talent with many uses, obviously, especially for a fugitive.
The double focus of the opening volume is a good tactic for Ms. Kozloff, as the Queen works aristocratically, top-down, while Princella Cerúlia has to learn the ways and the risks of democracy. It is, however, a general rule in heroic fantasy that you have to combine two elements in your world-building. First, a medieval world, with swords and halberds, battles and executions, but along with it, a magic strain, spells and witches, amulets and curses.