Gates of Stone

Ace: Berkley. (Lord of the Islands, Bk. 1). Feb. 2019. 544p. ISBN 9780451490278. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780451490285. FANTASY
Just before her 16th birthday, Princess Katerina, the rightful heir to the Empire of the Ice-Bear, is denied her ascension because she is female. Determined to regain her throne and gather vast power and wealth in the tropical islands of Laut Besar, Katerina murders her intended groom on their wedding day. Prince Jun is also on a mission: the malevolent sorcerer Mangku has stolen the ancient sword that Jun's father held and slaughtered everyone else on Jun's island. The sword is one of the great Seven Keys, and Mangku is determined to recover the other six and unleash complete destruction. The journeys of these two young royals merge as they pursue their own forms of revenge. Macallan, who writes historical fiction as Angus Donald, has created a solid fantasy debut with a strong yet brutal princess who recalls George R.R. Martin's Cersei Lannister.
VERDICT Epic worldbuilding with extensive Asian influences, especially Indonesian, meets bold characters and detailed battles across land and sea. Note that scenes of rape and gore may be traumatic for some readers.

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