I know I said some time back that my next review would be for The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, but Lynn Flewelling captured my attention before I was able to finish TTW, which has been sitting on my nightstand waiting for a couple of months now. Instead, I have been engrossed in reading and listening to Ms. Flewelling's Tamír Triad, consisting of The Bone Doll's Twin, Hidden Warrior, and The Oracle's Queen, and a whole lot of genius. This trilogy is a companion to the Nightrunners series, which I will address in a separate post.
Set in the Kingdom of Skala some 600 years before the first book of Nightrunners, our story opens with the wizard Iya and her apprentice Arkoniel traveling to the Oracle at Afra, a holy site dedicated to the god of the moon, of madness, and patron of wizards, Illior. Centuries before, the Oracle prophesied that only a Queen could rule Skala, or great tragedies would befall the kingdom. Queen Agnalain, however, was mad, and when she died, her son Erius took the throne, suggesting that the prophecy "So long as a daughter of Thelátimos' line..." applied only to the immediate descendants of Thelátimos (the last King), and intending to start a new dynasty of Kings instead of Queens. The country, however, has fallen to plague, famine, and drought, and their ancient enemies in Plenimar across the sea are stirring toward invasion.
Knowing that these events will bring unrest, Erius has begun arranging the deaths of all of the female children born into the royal line, thus assuring that his son, Korin, will succeed the throne. The only known surviving woman in the line is Erius's younger sister, Ariani (who would have been Queen under the proper succession), and Iya is told by the Oracle that Ariani will bear two children, but one Queen. In answer, Iya gains assistance from a hill-witch to hide the inevitable girl-child from the King in the most secure way possible: to give her the form of her twin brother, who must be killed in the process.
A small mistake lets the spirit of the boy take hold, which traps it, binding him to his sister, living unknowingly in his form. Prince Tobin is raised as a boy, not knowing the truth of his (her) existence until much later. Not only is the story utterly engrossing and beautifully written, but with the haunting of Tobin's dead twin, there is the eerie ghost story tied into the mix. Additionally, there is the underlying theme, as Ms. Flewelling puts it in her introduction to the audio recording, of gender identity and gender roles, and their slippery and often mutable nature. This is the story of the boy who is really a girl, the Prince who will be the greatest Queen in Skalan history, and an interesting take on the nature of the soul and the self.
Some of the fun here is that whether you read Nightrunners or Tamír first, you'll have an "aha" moment either way. (What is the bowl? What about Círna and Rhíminee? What the heck is an Orëska?) More importantly, you'll have a great time reading this fabulous adventure. Pick up The Bone Doll's Twin at the store for $7.99, or on audio through iTunes for $21.95--the audio versions are provided by Audible.com and are absolutely excellent! Either way, you won't be disappointed. You will immediately want the other two books. Trust me.