Blog tour and review: The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso

Title: The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso

Publisher: Orbit

Publication date: 4 May 2021

Genre: Adult | Fantasy

Rep: POC characters (Filipino)

Page extent: 448 pages

Rating:

The stunning finale to the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy where the queen of a divided land must unite her people against the enemies who threaten to tear her country apart. K. S. Villoso is a “powerful new voice in fantasy.” (Kameron Hurley)

Queen Talyien is finally home, but dangers she never imagined await her in the shadowed halls of her father’s castle.

War is on the horizon. Her son has been stolen from her, her warlords despise her, and across the sea, a cursed prince threatens her nation with invasion in order to win her hand.

Worse yet, her father’s ancient secrets are dangerous enough to bring Jin Sayeng to ruin. Dark magic tears rifts in the sky, preparing to rain down madness, chaos, and the possibility of setting her nation aflame.

Bearing the brunt of the past and uncertain about her future, Talyien will need to decide between fleeing her shadows or embracing them before the whole world becomes an inferno.

I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour. This has not affected my review. This review will contain spoilers for the first two books in the series, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro and The Ikessar Falcon.

Where do I even start with this epic of a book? I am raw after reading the final installment of the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, that feeling you only ever get after reading the very best of books. My heart feels hollowed out and empty, my eyes stinging with tears at this ending, this ending that has ruined me. The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng was always going to be a difficult read, wrapping up the stories of characters we love and those we hate, and K.S. Villoso absolutely nailed it. This is one of the best finales I’ve ever read, and it will be for a very long time.

The last installment in this series is a book about monsters, about the impact our actions have even if we don’t intend it, about the harm inevitable when you have power over others, and about the people willing to suffer themselves so that others can live. We start immediately where we left off, in Jin-Sayeng where Tali awaits trial to prove whether her son’s father is the Crown Prince, Rayyel, or Agos, her lover and former guard. But with Yuebek now on their doorstep with an army in toe, a gash in the fabric of reality letting monsters through in the Sougen, and her son kidnapped, it’s safe to say Tali has far more important problems. We are taken on a huge journey as all of the plotlines begin to come together and huge machinations are revealed that bind everything together. There is something so so satisfying about the mysteries and puzzles of a mammoth fantasy series all coming together and making sense in the last book, and Villoso managed this absolutely perfectly and in a way that left me guessing all the way to the very last pages. I started this book with no idea how Tali was going to get out of this mess, and I felt that all the way to the very last pages. Villoso expertly managed to tie up what I wanted to see tied up, but left the ending open in such an honest way that I think really speaks to the messiness and trauma of living and trying to rebuild after a war.

This book is one about monsters, Tali even says so herself. It’s about the way society creates monsters, how people can be twisted to become a monster but also how those in power cannot be anything other. Throughout this trilogy I think we’ve seen this play out in front of us, seen how a person can be driven to monstrosity, both in Tali’s journey and in Khine’s, both who are driven to awful actions in this last book. Tali really confronts her own monstrosity in this book, and I found such a brilliant duality in the way we see her have to take terrible, terrible actions (I’d argue by far the worst we’ve seen across the trilogy) that affect the poorest and most marginalised the most, in her bid to save the country, but with her first person POV we get to see the other side of the coin as well. We see so closely into how much Tali suffers for Jin-Sayeng, we see how much she bleeds, we see those in power around her continue to ask for more and more and in spite of the cost, Tali suffers and bears the anger and guilt and horror of what is needed to unite a nation and destroy the monsters on their shore. Tali is a monster who was made: by her father, by those around her, by the very power she has as royalty, her monstrosity is inevitable and horrific and despite this, it is still necessary for the survival of Jin-Sayeng. I adored how Villoso explored this, the idea that impact is more important that intent. It doesn’t matter that Tali does not intend to hurt those around her, doesn’t mean to hurt the poorest in her community, but her role in this requires her to sacrifice for the greater good—what else could she have done? Tali is a true morally grey character and I think this book explores this aspect of her best out of the whole trilogy. I started the book completely convinced that Tali’s actions were justified, knowing what she trying to do, believing her intent was what mattered and it wasn’t her fault that some were hurt in the process. But The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng really makes you, as well as Tali, confront and examine that idea in such a deep and impactful way. What else could Tali have done? Should she have suffered to save her country, offered herself and her loved ones up as a lamb for slaughter to Yuebek? Would that even have saved her country, or merely delayed the inevitable? Should she have fought the past, fought those begging her to destroy herself for them, instead sacrificing the people around her, her country, the poorest and most vulnerable in society, for the chance she could save both her country and herself? There are no right answers, no easy answers to this question, and I loved how much this book made me think in trying to find answers for myself.

In fact, I adored how much my opinions of some characters changed throughout this book. In addition to my thoughts on Tali, I found my feelings for Rayyel took a complete U-turn! I started the book hating him, as I have for the first two, because he is a hypocritical arse. And then you find out something early on which makes you even more disgusted in him. But after the latter half of the book, how can you ever hate him? When you see what he goes through for Tali, for Jin-Sayeng, for his son? There are so many layers to every single one of these characters, with each subsequent book in the series my opinions have changed and developed as more and more is revealed. And it takes such skill to do this so expertly, to slowly reveal the many facets of these characters as if peeling back more and more of them every time.

One of my favourite things about Villoso’s writing is how sensuous it is – by which I mean Villoso is an author that makes use of the senses so much when writing. In such a close POV, we are pulled into this world by Villoso’s use of description. We see, hear, taste and smell everything Tali does and it makes for such an intimate story. From the very height of action in the midst of battles to the quiet moments between when Tali travels, Villoso uses the senses to envelop us in this world so we feel everything Tali does, from her fear to her peace. These moments of peace were really perfect as well. In such a confronting and traumatic story, these moments of peace and calm were so necessary to break between the terror and horror. And of course, Khine was at the centre of so many of these, his presence like a ray of sunshine through the darkness of this story. His hope and love just shines on the page and he remains my favourite character.

There is so much to wrap up in this book, so many different plots and threads to bring together, none more important than Tali’s son, who was kidnapped by Dai Kaggawa for leverage at the end of book 2. This is what makes The Chronicles of the Bitch Queen so fresh and unique for me: this entire series has been driven by the love Tali has for her son, and I really can’t think of a single other fantasy which does this. So often fantasy focuses on orphans, on absent parents or parents who weren’t there, and I find it so brilliantly wholesome and fresh to read a fantasy where the defining relationship, the one that drives the main character’s actions the whole way through, is the love a mother has for her son. Because of this, there is an inevitability to this book that stuns you. You can see what has to happen, for Tali to save her son, there is no question of whether she will do it, because it her son and she loves him beyond anything else. He is her weakness, she knows it, and she does not care. And so you can only read on in stunned silence as everything you feared has to come true, because Tali will do whatever it takes to save her son. It was so lovely to see her finally get some time on page with him, to see her joy at seeing him, it makes my soul hurt and eyes tear up just thinking about it again.

I feel like this getting to be an essay so I better try wrap this review up… I am in awe of what K.S Villoso has created with this series. It’s a story about monsters, power and the love a mother has for her son. It has one of the best characters in any fantasy in Queen Talyien, a morally grey character who must confront and accept her own monstrosity as the cost in order to save her son and country from even worse monsters. It is a journey of such epic proportions I will never be able to sum it all up in just one review, but suffice to say, I think it’s one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read.

About the author

K.S. Villoso was born in a dank hospital on an afternoon in Albay, Philippines, and things have generally been okay since then. After spending most of her childhood in a slum area in Taguig (where she dodged death-defying traffic, ate questionable food, and fell into open-pit sewers more often than one ought to), she and her family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, where they spent the better part of two decades trying to chase the North American Dream. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her family, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.

About the blog tour

Please check out the rest of the amazing bloggers involved in the blog tour over the next two weeks! You can find the full schedule here! There is also a HUGE giveaway as part of the tour, and I highly encourage you to enter so you can win copies of this amazing series!

The prize is The Literary Culture’s Revenge of the Bitch Queen collection (inclusive of exclusive tapestry, book sleeve, and merchandise inspired by the series). There will also be TWO winners, one from the Phillipines and one international. You can enter the giveaway here!

Blog tour: The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

I am so excited to say welcome to my first ever blog tour stop!! Thank you so much to Shealea at Caffeine Book Tours for inviting me onto the tour, and to both Rin Chupeco and the publisher for offering a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. In just a few short words: The Never Tilting World is brilliant book, one about family and truth and the corruption of power. Also bisexuals. 

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Book information

Title: The Never Tilting World

Author: Rin Chupeco

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication date: 15 October 2019

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis:

Frozen meets Mad Max in this epic teen fantasy duology bursting with star-crossed romance, immortal heroines, and elemental magic, perfect for fans of Furyborn.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.

While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.

But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

Book links: Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

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A demoness is what they call a goddess that men cannot control.

I want to start by saying a big ol’ THANK YOU to Rin Chupeco for featuring bisexuality in a fantasy novel because this is seriously all my jams, this is it, it’s all I want. The Never Tilting World was a whirlwind of action and romance, of finding family and losing family, and discovering the way power can corrupt and twist who you are. 

The Never Tilting World is told through four POVs. In an icy cold, dark and destructive world are Lan; healer Catseye suffering from PTSD, bound to protect a goddess; and Odessa, goddess suffering from an unknown illness, newly discovering her power. On the other side of the world in the blistering heat of the desert are Haidee, goddess trying to break free from her mother’s plans to wed her off, and Arjun, desert rogue and amputee who has one desire: kill the goddess. These four are pulled to the centre of the world where a dark and unknown terror awaits – the terrible Brighthenge temple which was the site of the Breaking, where the world was torn apart and the frozen and heated wastelands created.

“I didn’t hate Haidee exactly, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to throttle her for having no sense of self-preservation.”

i am so here for this snark

All four of these characters are so unique. I adored the sniping and snark between Haidee and Arjun, but I think my favourite was Odessa. Her character arc is brilliant, and it was so interesting to see from her perspective as her power grew and changed. The romance interwoven into the story was lovely, please authors I beg of you to keep writing awesome queer relationships into fantasy, it brings me such joy to see. 

Another thing I loved was the backstory of the world and how it came to be. Both Odessa and Haidee are told different stories from their mothers regarding the Breaking and what happened all those years ago, and so we the reader are as confused and intrigued by the mystery as much as the characters are. I do wish we’d gotten perhaps a little more information and closure on that but I understand completely there is a sequel which will continue this. It was really interesting to see how both Odessa and Haidee’s view of their mothers adapted as the book progressed, and as they discovered more about the events of the Breaking. The insidious way these events emerge is fantastic and I cannot wait to find out the truth about what happened.

Sacrifice is necessary for what was two to become one.

something bad will happen i know it

Another fantastically creative element were all of the twisted (although at times adorable…) creatures we met along the way. From the dolugongs, dolphin like sand sea creatures, to the giant scorpions, and horror shadow creatures that can steal you away. They were all so different and interesting, I loved all the run ins with them! 

The Never Tilting World is a really solid series start, it sets the sequel up so well (too well perhaps, I GOTS TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED). I’m already very attached to all four of our main characters and I actually don’t have one I didn’t like (rare indeed for me!) It was such a creative and interesting read, with a fascinating history and a bisexual romance which is just awesome! If you love strong bisexuals, creative creatures and a killer mysterious history, then pick up The Never Tilting World!

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Please do visit all the amazing bloggers who are participating in this tour! I can’t wait to see what everyone else thought and has created for this book!

If you’re eagle eyed you’ll be able to spot the bottom right corner, which mentions the Twitter chat we’ll having on Saturday October 19! It will be happening at 9AM EST – I may not be able to make it as it will be pretty late here in Australia, but do listen in to everyone as they chat about this awesome read!

Rin Chupeco

Rin Chupeco has written obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and done many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She is the author of The Girl from the Well, its sequel, The Suffering, and the Bone Witch trilogy.

Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching.

Find out more about Rin over on her website, Goodreads, Instagram, Pintrest and Twitter!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco