cover image The Black Khan

The Black Khan

Ausma Zehanat Khan. Harper Voyager, $16.99 trade paper (496p) ISBN 978-0-06-245920-6

This second installment of Khan’s Khorasan Archives feminist fantasy series (after The Bloodprint) continues First Oralist Arian’s quest for the Bloodprint, the codex promising to overthrow the Talisman, a male-dominated, Taliban-like regime enslaving women and obliterating literacy throughout Khorasan. Arian; Sinnia, her fellow Companion of Hira; and Arian’s beloved Daniyar, the Silver Mage, are separately trapped and brutally tortured by Talisman members. They break free, unite, and seek the Bloodprint, held by Rukh, the Black Khan and potential Dark Mage, at Ashfall, the intrigue-infested capital that’s under siege by Talisman forces. Bitter betrayals, testosterone-fueled male rivalry, erotic temptations, and dizzying shifts in allegiance abound. The author supplies a lush atmosphere based on Middle Eastern traditions, but her characters flounder in facile and often contradictory motivations. A six-page glossary of often confusing terminology can’t make up for foggy and distracting linguistic stretches such as Arian’s “disheveled” face. These diminish Khan’s chief message: Arian succeeds by rejecting men who expect her to give up her individuality and her sworn duty. The challenging language makes it hard to get into this otherwise interesting tale. Agent: Danielle Burby, Hannigan Salky Getzler. (Oct.)