Book three of Jane Kindred’s House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy has finally been released. Yippee! I’ve been a huge fan of this series ever since reading the first book, and was thrilled when the publisher asked me if I’d like an advanced copy of this one. I was also delighted to have had the opportunity to host a guest post from the author earlier this week.
A brief recap of the story thus far: The series is a parallel of the story of Anastasia Romanov mixed with fairy tale elements from The Snow Queen. When her cousin Kae is possessed by the wicked Queen Aeval and her entire family is murdered, Grand Duchess Anazakia Helisovna manages to escape from Heaven and fall into modern Russia, aided by some S&M gay demons named Belphagor and Vasily. Anazakia begins to gather her allies and fight to regain the throne of heaven. Along the way, she and Vasily (who’s actually bi) have a daughter named Ola together, cause Anazakia was too sheltered to know about birth control. Oops.
In Armies of Heaven, Ola has been kidnapped by Anazakia’s childhood nurse Helga, a power-starved member of the Social Liberation Party. Meanwhile, Helga has another card to play. Anazakia’s sister’s child is alive, and Helga means to use him to put herself in power, ruling as regent and using him as a puppet. Anazakia is torn between her duties to her kingdom and to the children. Should she go after Helga and save her child, or fight Aeval and reclaim her kingdom?
The beginning of the book seemed a bit slow to me, but the pacing picked up, and I read the last two thirds of the book in one sitting, frantic to see how the story would be resolved. There are so many things about this series that make me happy, and this book did not disappoint. I love the way that Jane Kindred intersperses her writing with Russian phrases, especially when describing Belphagor’s relationships with his various submissive friends. Rather than play with tired love triangles, the author creates characters who are okay with having unconventional and somewhat deviant relationships, preferring to all be one happy family rather than fight over each other. I adored the fairy tale elements, and I may or may not have cried when (spoiler in white) the shard of glass fell out of Kae’s eye. Yeah, I’m sappy about stuff like that.
One of the things I liked about this was seeing the secondary characters grow, develop, and come into their own. Kae’s character stood out the most to me in this book. He’s a man who is haunted by his actions while under Aeval’s spell, and can’t forgive himself for the atrocities that he’s committed. Armies of Heaven focused a lot on Kae and his relationships with the other characters as he begins to allow himself to have a place in Anazakia’s life again and begins to heal. Then there’s Kirill, a monk who was devastated to find out that Heaven was a parallel world that left no room for his concept of a God. Or Lively, Helga’s niece who is forced by a magical spell to spy on Anazakia, but who learns to stand up for herself and her own beliefs.
One word of warning if you haven’t read this series–there is graphic violence. Sometimes, violence is committed against children. Some readers might not feel comfortable with it. You have been forewarned.
I can’t say enough how much I loved this series. As someone who loves Russian culture, history, and fairy tales, Anazakia’s story is right up my alley. Armies of Heaven is the perfect conclusion to one of the most unique fantasy stories that I’ve read.