Welcome to one of the September 19th stops on the blog tour for Marilia the Warlord & Empire of Jackals by Morgan Cole. This tour has been organized by Silver Dagger Blog Tours. Follow the blog tour for promo posts, guest posts from the author, book excerpts, other reviews, and more! (Psst, there’s also a giveaway!)
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Marilia the Warlord
Chrysathamere Trilogy Book One
by Morgan Cole
Page Count: 482
Add to your Goodreads TBR!
Born the bastard daughter of a painted lady, Marilia was told she would live out her days within the walls of her mother’s brothel, a companion for the rich men of Tyrace. But after a terrible betrayal, Marilia’s world turns upside down. With the help of her twin brother, Annuweth, she flees the only home she’s ever known in search of the one man who can offer her a chance at a better life: one of her deceased father’s friends, the Emperor of Navessea’s greatest general.
What follows is a journey spanning years, from the streets of the desert city of Tyracium to the splendor of the emperor’s keep and the wind-swept, wild island of Svartennos. Along the way, Marilia discovers, for the first time, the gift she has for strategy and warfare—a world that is forbidden to girls like her.
When the empire is threatened by a foreign invasion, the defense of Navessea is left in the hands of a cruel and arrogant general no match for the empire’s foes. With the fate of her new home and her family hanging in the balance, Marilia swears to use all her courage and cunning to help repel the enemy…if she can convince anyone to follow her.
The struggle that follows will test her to her core and lead her back to the past she thought she had escaped. Facing treachery within her own ranks as well as a devious enemy commander, Marilia will need all the help she can get, even if it means doing something her brother may never forgive—making a pact with the man who murdered her father.
Inspired by The Song of Achilles and Ender’s Game, Marilia, the Warlord is a blend of the epic and the personal, a story of war, romance, envy, the rivalry between brother and sister, and a young woman’s fight to find her place in the world.
My Rating: 4 Stars
Marilia the Warlord is the first book in what will be a trilogy of classic high fantasy books that have a charming North African / Middle Eastern flavour to them. The cultures, religions, and mythologies encountered in this book all feel fresh and unique, but it also feels like it could be from a real place on the shores of the Mediterranean.
As the first book in the series, Marilia the Warlord takes us on a journey through Marilia’s life and all the events that lead to this bastard daughter from a pillow house becoming a warlord. Marilia is a fascinating, well rounded, and ultimately very likeable character with realistic desires and fears that drive every decision she makes. She doesn’t want to become a painted lady like her mother, so she runs away and finds herself a new family who will raise her for a better life. She doesn’t want to be a gentle lady, so she challenges her new father to a war game and proves she deserves the chance to study the sword like her brother. Eventually, she finds herself married to a lord of a faraway land and proves herself an invaluable resource consulting in battle. But what can a lady like Marilia do in such a male-dominated world when her world comes crashing down with her husband’s untimely death?
I really enjoyed Marilia’s cleverness and fierce defiance of the patriarchy in her world. My heart ached for her every time her heart was broken, as she lost loved ones both to death and to society’s rules about who a girl in her position can love. I cheered her on every time she gained a new skill or won a new ally. I’m not sure if we were supposed to hate her twin as much as I did by the time they parted ways, but I hated him on her behalf.
The second half of this book is very well-paced and captivating, but the first half left me skimming to the end of some sections or chapters. The first half of this book took so many meandering walks through the earlier days of Marilia’s life for the sake of world-building, but every time I felt like I was starting to enjoy the point in time we were at or the characters she was warming up to, something changed abruptly. People came and went from her life, she moved cities and countries, people died or betrayed her. By the time we got to the second half where it became far too captivating to put down, I was still expecting leaps in time or location or the sudden exit of an important character that might pull me back out again. Because of this, I cannot give it the 5 stars I feel it could have achieved. I have very high hopes for the second book, which I will be reading soon!
I hope that the second book will improve upon the pacing and that we’ve had enough world-building laid down in this one that the next one can jump straight into the action.
I also wanted to comment that the cover art for both Marilia the Warlord and the sequel Empire of Jackals are absolutely gorgeous, and the covers alone would have drawn me to pick them up had I come across these books on my own. With that said, I’ve seen other reviewers mention the cover and reference an older title for this book which was Marilia the Bastard. Now I’m wondering why the title was changed? She doesn’t become a warlord until well into the second half of the book, and the vast majority of this story is very much the trials and tribulations of a bastard trying to outrun her birthright. Marilia the Bastard sets more appropriate expectations for what this book will hold.
I was given a review copy of Marilia the Warlord in exchange for an honest review as part of my participation in the book tour organized by Silver Dagger Book Tours. Thank you to the author and Silver Dagger for making that possible!
Empire of Jackals
Chrysathamere Trilogy Book Two
by Morgan Cole
Page Count: 392
Add to your Goodreads TBR!
The war with Tyrace is over.
It was supposed to be a time of celebration. Of triumph. But for Marilia Sandara, hero of Chrysathamere Pass, the cost was too high. After watching he childhood friends slaughtered before her eyes, all she wants to do is sail back to Svartennos and try to forget the price she had to pay for her victory.
But the peace isn’t long to last. After Emperor Vergana makes a shocking announcement—that he means to disinherit his true-born son, Rufyllys, in favor of his adopted child, Prince Ilruyn—the seeds are sown that will plunge Navessea back into war. This time, Marilia and her twin brother, Annuweth, find themselves on opposite sides of a conflict that threatens to undo all they fought for. By the time the dust settles and the killing stops, only one of the children of Karthtag-Kal may be left standing.
Annuweth lay on a bed in a Tyracian villa. The sheets smelled of dried sweat and the coppery stench of his own blood. It was a smell that not even the garden breeze through the window could hide.
Inside, his body raged, at war with itself. His lips were chapped, and he felt a dry heat racing through him like the fury of the desert winds. His mouth was thick and gritty as if choked with sand.
He felt much like he had all those years ago, when he’d lain weak and shivering after Tyrennis Castaval had tried to beat him to death. The fear crept in on him along with the darkness that always seemed to be gathering at the corners of his eyes, a darkness that might have been the beginning of sleep or the beginning of death. He was afraid that the darkness would claim him for good. He was afraid that even if it did not, he would not get better; afraid that his body was broken.
He needed his body; he wasn’t like his sister, whose greatest gift was her mind. His greatest gift was his sword hand. His speed, his strength. Without all of that…he wasn’t sure what he was.
Physicks came in and out. They pinched and poked and prodded and made the pain dance across his skin like a wicked child skipping across the cracks in a broken road. They peered at his chest, at his side, at his broken nose, at the gash across his face, and they forced water down his throat. They sewed him back together. That part made him weep with pain, though it shamed him. He wished he could gather the tears back into his eyes. He wished he could silence the sobs that racked his chest. Tears are the recourse of those who have no other weapon, Karthtag-Kal used to tell him. Women and children.
The physick crept away, leaving him alone in the dark. His only tether to the world of the living was the rippling, gaping pain that wrapped around him like a red scarf.
While he was awake, the pain held him and rocked him in its arms. When sleep finally came, his dreams were no relief.
He stood by the edge of a rushing river, the night around him darker than any he had ever seen. There were no stars in the sky, and a single sliver of pale moonlight made the ripples on the black water shine silver like the toothy grin of a razorfish.
Figures stood before him—the knights who had sailed with him and Livenneth in the Bay of Dane. The children of Oba’al’s pillow house who had been his friends. Where their eyes had been were smoking holes; grave beetles crawled from rotting gashes in their skulls. Annuweth tried to raise his sword to fend the monsters away, but then he realized that his sword was just a broken stick.
From out of their ranks stepped the Graver. He grew giant, tall enough to blot out the stars. He took Annuweth in his hands and crushed the life from him, squeezing until Annuweth’s bones came popping out through his skin.
Annuweth awoke with his mouth open, but his scream died soundlessly inside him.
The next day, Marilia came to him. Her blurred face hung over him like a half-finished silk tapestry distorted by the wind. She laid her hand on his brow and whispered to him that he would be all right, that she was sorry. So many things she whispered, on and on, until at last one of her men came to call her away.
He looked for sleep, but it would not come; it was stymied by the song that pounded through his head, over and over. A song he’d heard once as a child.
The tiger lord of westerland stood gazing out to sea
Golden clouds and golden sun, my lady’s gone from me
No, he thought. Make it stop. By the gods, by the spirits, just let me rest.
Her hair was black as midnight’s cloud, her eyes like living flame
Now I wake weeping in the night; with tears I call her name
A hundred men my spear laid low, I sent them to the pyres
I turned their broken halls to ash, the brave sons and their sires
He closed his eyes. He drew one breath; another. That was all he could do—keep breathing. One in, one out. On and on and until his broken body mended itself and he found the strength to stand again.
She lit candles for him. He wanted to tell her to stop, that the smell was too strong, that he was choking on them. But he could not find his voice.
The smoke tickled his face and curled in his hair like the fingers of his long-ago mother. It wove shapes in the air.
How bright his future had seemed, when he’d first ascended the steps to Karthtag-Kal’s villa. How long ago it felt now. How far away. It was this place, this city that had left him hollowed, that had placed its shadowy hand upon him. A curse that began the day Tyrennis Castaval laid him low.
Annuweth had imagined at the time that his father’s spirit had saved him, that the prefect’s blood that flowed in his veins had given him the strength he needed to recover from the wounds caused by Castaval’s wooden sword. Nelos Dartimaos had saved him for another day, some other destiny that was waiting for him.
What if that destiny was only to die here in this room?
Again came the song, and he realized for the first time that it wasn’t only in his head—someone was singing it, someone outside his room. The men of Svartennos, many voices raised as one.
The war was won, the battle done, the crown upon my hair
While in my gardens children laugh, and women’s voices fair
The western trees are tall and strong, the rivers bright and clear
Yet none of them so dear to me as my Chrysathamere
The Lady Chrysathamere. His sister. Once again, she had risen, and he had fallen. Now she had taken the dream of his childhood—to defeat the Graver, to make things right and avenge his father’s death.
A new feeling flooded him. As hot as the fever, as fierce as the pain. His eyes opened; beneath the thin linens that covered his embattled body, his lungs swelled with a new, full breath.
Fuck this city. Fuck curses. I’m going to live. I’m going to get better.
Let his sister have her moment in the sun. Let her enjoy it for all it was worth. He would lie here, and hurt, and weep, and piss himself if need be, if that was what it took.
But when it was all over, he would walk out of here, his sword at his side, to fight another day.
Because he was Annuweth Sandaros, son of Nelos Dartimaos.
And this was not the end of his story.
After being bombarded with one too many school motivational posters, I decided to “shoot for the moon” by pursuing a risky double-major in creative writing and history on the assumption that the worst-case scenario would be landing among the stars. I instead landed in long-term unemployment—and unpaid internships, let’s not forget the unpaid internships—in small-town Ohio. Eventually, after several re-writes and two unhappy years, my first novel (not counting a couple of incredibly pretentious high fantasy books from my high school and college years that have all hopefully been hunted down and burned) was picked up by a literary agent—and then put back down when it was determined it was not marketable to a young adult audience.
Eventually, I began making more financially sound life choices and now work as an attorney in the public sector while continuing to write on the side.
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