Jen reviews Orchestra of Treacheries, the second book in JC Kang‘s Epic Fantasy series, The Dragon Songs Saga. A review of the first book, Songs of Insurrection, can be found HERE.
Thank you once again to JC Kang for the review copy!
|Series: The Dragon Songs Saga #2
|Genre: Fantasy, Asian setting
|Date of Publishing: March 26, 2021
|Trigger Warnings: trauma, grief, drugged, kidnapped, mention of rape, mention of suicide, misogyny
|Page count: 556
Princess Kaiya has a voice that could charm a dragon, but her homeland’s ambitious lords consider her little more than a singing fool. With the Dragon Throne of Cathay at stake, her status as the last unmarried child of the ailing emperor overshadows her musical talent.
Potential suitors see her as a stepping stone. One ruthless cousin would rather step on her gravestone. Not one to get walked over or buried, Kaiya is holding out for the exiled foreign prince who first inspired her to sing.
Conspiracies eat away at the empire from the inside, while aggressive neighbors wait to consume what’s left. With her brothers unwilling or incapable of leading, Kaiya faces tasks worthy of an imperial princess: defuse escalating conflicts between rival lords. Negotiate peace with foreign powers. Beguile a dragon.
The magic of her voice is raw and unproven, but Kaiya finds mentors in unlikely places. An elf courtier. An ancient healer. A martial arts master. And an evil sorcerer. She’ll need their guidance to survive the final showdown with a dragon who has no intentions of being tricked by twice.
“Do not move, be moved. Master Sabal’s admonishment formed the first verse of the song in her head. The series of waves lifted her out of her stance and sent her feet teetering across the top of the mesa. Her hands moved of their own accord, much like when she danced for Prince Dhananad. Gravity seemed to release its hold on her as she accomplished feats of balance that should not have been possible.
When the Oracle clapped once, she found herself twirled into a cross-legged squat, back arched and arms bent like weeping willow branches. The Iridescent Moon had moved a phase, though unlike the first time, she didn’t recall any images or visions.”
Not Sad Anymore by Clara Mae
And hey, what’s the time?
‘Cause you’re not on my mind
I’m just making sure I won’t forget the moment
When I’m not sad anymore I’m not sad anymore, no more now
I’m just mad at myself for being dumb enough to love you
But I’m not sad anymore.
Orchestra of Treacheries is the second book in the supremely fun The Dragon Songs Saga, which follows Princess Kaiya, as she learns to wield the power of her song, and the power of her title. Lessons she needs to learn quickly, because in a country on the verge of a power shift, there are plenty of ambitious people waiting in the wings who would love to help speed things along with or without Kaiya in the picture.
Two years has made a big difference with Kaiya, she has blossomed, physically and mentally. She has gained knowledge in her time sitting on the council that has gone a long way into helping her grow up, but still, naivety is something that gets beat down with life and/or betrayals over time so, we still see the occasional moments of her youth in her decisions, and in trusting too easily.
Just as in the first book, there are a lot of characters in this series. Filled with double-dealing and side-games the political intrigue is overflowing with our players’ quests to get their horse in the running. And all of them want Kaiya, and the power she represents, as the last unmarried daughter of a dying emperor.
Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with especially with the titles to keep the names very similar sounding but I did find them a lot easier to follow in Orchestra of Treacheries. Maybe because I had met them previously and it’s only been a few months since I read the first book, or maybe just because the players kind of fell to two-sides outside of Kaiya’s, and it was easier to keep track of who was backstabbing who.
The setting, as usual, is gorgeous and I feel like I am watching a historical Chinese drama with the beautiful palace grounds, and costumes, music, etc. It’s just lovely and I can’t say enough about the little details that show us everything from the court’s inner workings and hierarchy, to something as simple as getting those overly large sleeves on the gowns, to lay down prettily while in a bow. I think the palace setting is my favourite part of these stories and I hate leaving its beauty behind for the reality of life outside of it.
That said, I mentioned in the first review one of the things I admire about these stories, is the contrast between the palace life, the opulence, intrigues and hidden threats, as opposed to the world outside of the palace, where its dangers, poverty, and ugliness are on display for all to see.
Orchestra of Treacheries feels like a middle book as we see a lot of the other two-sides plans – filling out the motivation of their greed, and not as much of Kaiya and her studies.
Everyone’s favourite elf, Jie, returns for this story and she is always a lot of fun, though her role was a bit smaller in this book.
I missed Tian, but I really enjoyed his brother, Zheng Ming. The author assures me that Tian will return and I am looking forward to having him back, plus I had him pegged in the last book as male lead (you know, if this was a drama) and eventual husband material for Kaiya, so I need to have my other theory proven right. Which by the way, I am pleased to say, I was totally right about my prior thoughts on Harkeep – which I hinted at in the last review….it kills me not to talk about it but spoilers abound.