My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Astounding! I did not read the first book in the series as I was told this one would stand on its own, and so it was. A powerful story about an unlikely heroine: a once-crazy, middle-aged dowager queen that only wants to have a little room for herself and be treated like a human being from her peers. Of course things go downhill and Ista finds herself in the middle of a dangerous struggle between warring nations, gods, demons, a heroic knight and his stubborn and desperate wife. All is well crafted in this book: the character are lovable, Ista in particular with her regrets for the past, and her subtle, slightly cynical humour; the world-building is simple but effective; and the plot as well is one that fantasy veterans will recognize in its outline, but one that complements, rather than stunt or go at odds with, the character growth.