cover image The Princess Knight

The Princess Knight

G.A. Aiken. Kensington, $15.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-4967-2125-9

The clunky second installment to Aiken’s Scarred Earth Saga (following The Blacksmith Queen) follows war monk Gemma Smythe—sister to the warring Queens Keeley and Beatrix––on episodic adventures as she gathers and protects allies for Keeley, her queen. Though the novel is billed as a fantasy romance, Gemma’s relationship with Amichai warrior Quinn lacks both emotion and heat, and it takes a backseat to the action and fantasy politics except for a few moments of tenderness and attraction. Aiken’s fantasy world is so chock-full of magical creatures and human sects that it becomes difficult to keep them all straight. The absurd violence is cartoonish (“She turned her weapon and swung the other way, only higher, smashing heads like pumpkins”), but the petty arguments that frequently explode between main characters bog things down. Fans will be glad to see Aiken’s characteristic over-the-top humor and rapid-fire dialogue on display, but the riotous tone falls flat without any heart behind it. In failing to balance the romance with the action, neither is given its due. Agent: Ethan Ellenberg, Ethan Ellenberg Literary. (Dec.)