A Coalition of Lions – Elizabeth Wein

Sequel to The Winter Prince, though focusing on a different protagonist. The first-person voice is beautiful and gripping, but without the tension and darkness that make The Winter Prince unique.

I was nervous after the first few pages, where most of the characters from the previous book are killed off, but

SPOILER

fortunately Medraut makes a comeback,

SPOILER ENDS

and if I hadn’t known that going in, I wouldn’t have continued.

Unusually, this is a book without a villain- there are antagonists, but as the title intimates, they are not defeated but rather brought into alignment with the protagonists via compromise. There are no irredeemable or even wicked characters, but rather people with differing flaws and agendas struggling to get their way and believing themselves in the right. Goewin, the main character, even identifies with and at times parallels the villain of the first book.

The setting is also worth noting- ancient Ethiopia, where the British Goewin flees from her war-torn country, in a neat reversal.

Many tropes from the first book repeat- fraught sibling relationships, the problem of lesser royalty, accepting you won’t rule, physical abuse and punishment, defiance, the rulers mishandling relationships but then redeeming themselves, a hunt on which loyalties are tested and forged. The plot and setting, however, are quite different.

Edited to add: You have to love a YA book where the main motif is the Song of Songs, and the female protagonist is described as “terrible as an army with banners.”

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