Book Review: Beneath the Twisted Trees – by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Gollancz cover

Shattered Sands #4

Epic, Fantasy

DAW; July 2, 2019 (US)

Gollancz; July 4, 2019 (UK)

608 pages (ebook)

4.5 / 5 ✪

I was kindly furnished me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to both NetGalley and DAW Books. All opinions are my own.

WARNING SPOILERS: The following contains spoilers for the previous Shattered Sands novels!

Beneath the Twisted Trees is the 4th Shattered Sands book, a series that began with Twelve Kings in Sharakai. That was one of my favorite books ever, and I’ve really enjoyed the journey thus far. I’m happy to say that Twisted Trees continues the trend, rather than upsetting it. Though, this installment is a departure of sorts from the previous books of the series as the Kings no longer take center stage. I mean, they’re still involved, and Çeda’s main goal is still to bring them down, but the focus in Twisted Trees goes instead to Sharakai.

War has come to the desert.

With so many Kings fallen, Sharakai’s neighbors have come calling. Brama, Emre and none too few of the Kings find their destinies caught up in the battle for the Amber Jewel. Emre heads the delegation from the Thirteenth Tribe—first in an attempt to reunite the other twelve tribes, then on to the invading Malasani as they sit before the walls of the city. But will it be dispute from without or betrayal from within that dooms this mission? Brama—alone with the ehrekh Rümayesh—roams to desert in search of beauty and wonders, but instead finds more than he imagined and is swept up in a gamble to bring Sharakai to ruin. The Kings—Ihsan, Beşir and Hamzakiir (masquerading as Kiral)—seek to save their city by any means necessary, while Hamzakiir seeks only to save himself from Meryam’s clutches.

Meanwhile Ramahd seeks the Qaimiri queen’s downfall; for the murder of her father, betrayal of their people, betrayal of Ramahd himself. Davud and Anila find themselves alone with enemies on all sides, with both the Kings and Sharakai’s new queen searching for them, they must seize on any ally in an attempt to save themselves. And yet, where will their desperation lead them? In the desert, Çeda searches for answers. Riddles, poems, stories—anything that will help her bring down the Kings. But first she seeks to free the asirim, remnants of her lost tribe. And this alone may prove too daunting a task. Nalamae, goddess of the Haddah, hides from the elder gods of the desert. Centuries prior, the other desert gods chose to deal with the Kings of Sharakai, while she abstained. The mystery remains: why? And why now do the other gods—Yerinde particularly—all seek her head?

In addition to these, there are the Malasani, the Mirean, the Qaimiri: all come to the Shangazi to pluck the Jewel from the sands. A work of epic fantasy at its finest, Twisted Trees weaves together a half-dozen POVs with multiple plots into a single epic story; which is but part of a greater, over-arching story. Blood, lies, love, plague, betrayal, and hope abound in this tale, which begins the second half of Beaulieu’s six-book Shattered Sands.

And it was… actually really good.

I had few issues with the book; for the most part I really enjoyed it. Starting from the events of A Veil of Spears—which featured a plot I really enjoyed with an ending that was somewhat uneven and disappointing—Twisted Trees picks up and carries on, expertly blending action with the intricacies intrigue and subtlety. It’s good to see that after four main, plus another six or so novellas set in the world, the Shattered Sands is still going strong. The plot and stories and weave of Twisted Trees continues to impress, and though I didn’t absolutely adore every chapter, there were none that I hated, either.

As with any book, there were those POVs I found myself more excited for than others, though they changed it up a bit throughout as individual stories are wont to do. Overall Brama, Hamzakiir and Ramahd intrigued me, while Emre and Anila fell short. Çeda, Davud and the other Kings failed to wow or disappoint in equal measure (bit disappointed a bit by this, as I’d always been wrapt by Çeda’s chapters, particularly).

My largest issue with Twisted Trees were the relationships. Or love-triangles. Or… whatever. About a month ago, I read the Tattered Prince (backstory on Brama and Jax’s relationship) to ready myself for Twisted Trees, so I was rather disappointed to find that Jax wasn’t even IN this book. Not that Brama seems to notice. Does little to further Emre and Çeda’s relationship either, though again each pursue their own. In fact, everyone (every POVC) seems to have turned a blind eye to their history before this book. YOLO, and whatnot.

My only other issue was with the pacing. It becomes a bit uneven in the second half of the text–particularly towards the end. This added a few days to my read time, and made it a little harder to focus on, but affected little else. It felt quite similar to the the pacing in A Veil of Spears, really.

Beneath the Twisted Trees actually exceeded my expectations in a big, big way. I definitely enjoyed it. More so, in waiting a few days between finishing and reviewing it, I was able to reread a bit of the sections that confused/annoyed me, which really helped me enjoy it more.

The 5th Shattered Sands installment, When Jackals Storm the Walls (working title), is due out in 2020. Beneath the Twisted Trees came out July 2nd in the US and July 4th in the UK. And yeah—it was fairly awesome.

One thought on “Book Review: Beneath the Twisted Trees – by Bradley P. Beaulieu

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