Title: The Bone Doll’s Twin
Series Title: The Tamir Triad
Author: Lynn Flewelling
Date Added: June 9, 2016
Date Started: March 22, 2018
Date Finished: April 30, 2018
Reading Duration: 39 days
Genre: High Fantasy
Sometimes the price of destiny is higher than anyone imagined….
Dark Magic, Hidden Destiny
For three centuries a divine prophecy and a line of warrior queens protected Skala. But the people grew complacent and Erius, a usurper king, claimed his young half sister’s throne.
Now plague and drought stalk the land, war with Skala’s ancient rival Plenimar drains the country’s lifeblood, and to be born female into the royal line has become a death sentence as the king fights to ensure the succession of his only heir, a son. For King Erius the greatest threat comes from his own line — and from Illior’s faithful, who spread the Oracle’s words to a doubting populace.
As noblewomen young and old perish mysteriously, the king’s nephew — his sister’s only child — grows toward manhood. But unbeknownst to the king or the boy, strange, haunted Tobin is the princess’s daughter, given male form by a dark magic to protect her until she can claim her rightful destiny.
Only Tobin’s noble father, two wizards of Illior, and an outlawed forest witch know the truth. Only they can protect young Tobin from a king’s wrath, a mother’s madness, and the terrifying rage of her brother’s demon spirit, determined to avenge his brutal murder….
This novel is told from the point of view of the past where the prologue isn’t the precursor to the narrative, but rather the ending. Since the first chapter starts with Iya, Arkoniel’s teacher, and we learn from Arkoniel, the POV of the prologue, that Iya is dead, we therefore know Chapter 1 occurs prior with only Arkoniel left to remember. Whether or not the wizard and his late teacher succeeded remains to be seen, but what they had to do in order to secure both Tobin’s safety and future from King Erius would torture anyone with a conscience for the rest of their life.
Tobin is a haunted child in more ways than one. His life is a lonely bevy of secrets he’s not privy to, as well as isolated to keep prying eyes in the dark. Arkoniel manages to break through the boy’s dislike of wizards enough to become his tutor, and Tobin is even granted a companion (later squire) in the form of Ki, the umpteenth son of a minor knight. Ki is definitely one of the best characters in the book. He’s plain spoken and blunt, which are traits that mesh well with Tobin’s often laconic and reserved nature.
This novel does some excellent things in regards to gender and sexuality without being explicitly marketed as such. Tobin was given a “male” form through dark magic, but eventually the truth of that has to come out, and of course it brings up questions. Being raised as a boy and having a stereotypical boy’s body doesn’t make Tobin a boy; it only gives him a boy’s form. I can’t speak for how someone who is trans and/or intersex would feel about this paradigm, and the novel kind of just puts it out there (at least in this first of the trilogy) without much comment.
I was shocked at how Flewelling managed to put in a gay friendly mien, as well. Something not typically found in the Medieval time period the story mimics. At one point Ki gets into a fight with another squire about him (Ki) and Tobin, as well Duke Rhius, Tobin’s father, and his guard captain Tharin, having a relationship aka “being gay together.” When Ki goes to Tharin about it, the captain doesn’t pull any toxic masculinity bullshit on him, as most would expect. He kind of just shrugs and says that it’s that way with many warriors. With some it passes and with others it stays. With the duke it passed (which implies it may not have passed with Tharin aka he’s still in love with Rhius). So the captain of the guard who is the toughest and most bad ass dudeTobin and Ki know admitted to being once lovers with the duke with zero hesitation or shame. Even in regards to Ki, he wasn’t particularly upset with the idea of the act itself, but rather he was pissed with how the other boys were talking about and mocking it.
I think the blurb could’ve given less away, but this was an excellent novel with well fleshed out characters. I liked that Prince Korin, Erius’s son (Erius being the king who made all those female babies disappear) is likable. It would’ve been cliched to make him a jackass because then you’d want all of Erius’s line to be destroyed and dissolved. Making Korin a responsible youth who knows how to resolve conflicts, (mostly) keep his circle in line, and welcome Tobin and Ki in with open arms is going to make it very difficult for the duke’s son to betray his cousin regardless of what Erius has done. It will be interesting to see how this tension is resolved as the trilogy goes on.