Title: The Queen of Rhodia (Tales of Inthya Book Three)
Publisher: Ninestar Press
Author: Effie Calvin
Price: $16.99 / $5.99
Esofi, once a lesser princess of Rhodia, is now happily married to Crown Princess Adale of Ieflaria. Together, they have saved the land from malevolent magic and are now raising their dragon son, Carinth. Even more surprising, the dragons who were once a threat to Ieflaria are now seeking diplomatic relations; little Carinth is the first dragon in generations to exhibit magical abilities and the older dragons are desperate to re-earn the grace of their Mother, Talcia, the Goddess of Magic and Wilderness. Unfortunately, Esofi’s own very human mother Gaelle is convinced that she should be raising Carinth — for surely Talcia would never entrust a dragon to Esofi of all people. And Gaelle always gets what she wants ….
I adore these books. They are the perfect antidote to the misogyny and violence of a certain other dragon-and-princess series. Esofi and Adale complement one another wonderfully: one is serious and thoughtful, the other impulsive and passionate. But they are dedicated to one another, to their son, and to their people. They will do whatever it takes to protect Carinth and Ieflaria, even if that means facing down assassination attempts, a dangerous trip into dragon territory, wild gryphons, traitorous mages, and the vindictive Queen of Rhodia.
Because Gaelle is not only cruel, but also a powerful magic-user, and she will allow nothing to stop her. Esofi learned young to stay out of her mother’s way and to never, ever challenge her; even now, grown, married, and preparing to rule a kingdom herself, she is still terrified of her mother. Ultimately, it takes not only a threat to her new family, but Adale’s unwavering support for Esofi to finally stand before her mother and say “no.”
In addition to the wonderful characters, I particularly like the religion of the world of Inthya. The Gods and Goddesses take an active and (mostly) benevolent role in the lives of humans, dragons, and mer alike. Talcia created the dragons, but she also gifted humanity with magic; she repeatedly appears to Esofi in visions, encouraging her to do what must be done. Aelia, the Goddess of Inspiration, accompanies the diplomatic party to the dragons’ islands in her mortal form of Elyne; formerly a Goddess of Caprice, she is joyous and funny, able to see the beauty in the world and people around her (I especially like the scene in which she communicates with the mer while sitting on the railing of the ship). Then there is Rikilda, a Goddess of secrets and herbs; as one of her priestesses explains to Adale, “We are gardeners, Crown Princess. Leave us to our flowers. We work at dusk, but we are not evil.” (Personally, I would love to see a book or two featuring one of Rikilda’s Nightshades as the main character. Pretty please?)
Finally, I can’t recommend this series enough to LGBTQIA+ readers. Most people in Inthya could be generally described as bisexual, assuming a label was even needed; they love whom they will. While the various lands may be ruled by monarchs, men and women and neutroi (nonbinary) are all equally capable of working as paladins, priests, farmers, and merchants; there is no sexual or gender discrimination. Even more unusual for a fantasy series is the reference to an asexual character. I have the feeling that we will see more of her in the fourth book, The Empress of Xytae, but in The Queen of Rhodia reference is made to a monarch who eschewed sexual relations of any kind and used magic to produce her required heir.
The Queen of Rhodia is a terrific addition to Calvin’s Tales of Inthya series. Highly recommended to fans of K. D. Edwards, Jordan L. Hawk, Joey W. Hill, Archer Kay Leah, and Cat Sebastian.
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer.]