The King Commands, Tales of the Borderlands Book Two, by Meg Burden (Brown Barn Books, 2010, YA, 298 pages), picks up right where Northlander left off (and so, if you haven't read Northlander, you might not want to read any further. I'm going to try to stay away from major spoilers, but it's hard to discuss this book without spoiling the first at least a little).
Ellin Fisher, Southlander healer, had never expected to call the castle of the Northland kingdom home. But the Southland is not a safe place for her--the self-styled Guardians have taken control, and are mercilessly hunting down anyone who has any trace of a magical gift. People like Ellin, who can both heal and compel others with her mind. So it is ironically in the north, where "southern witches" are feared, and anyone from the south is looked on with contempt, that she feels safest. Especially since she has been taken in by the five brothers of the royal family, the oldest of whom has just become king.
But Ellin's fragile peace is broken by echos of the tumultuous events of the past few months (this is me not being spoilerish--lots of stuff happens). And Ellin and the youngest of the royal brothers find themselves running for their lives in the southlands. As they work to first understand, and then foil, the evil plans of the Guardians, they are caught in a web of politics, deceit, and magic that could bring ruin to all they hold dear (me being melodramatic).
Ok, that's the plot out of the way, which is good, because even though it was a fine plot, and very gripping, a fast read, and all that good stuff, I am now going to confess how very Shallow I am. Because what interested me, and kept my little eyes focused tightly on the pages, was my intense desire to know which of the awesomely attractive brothers Ellin would end up with, and then, when that was made clear, whether it would work out for her....
The King Commands is not, actually, a romance--it is an adventure in place where people have magical powers and bad guys are trying to stomp on/exploit those people, and two countries (the north and south lands) are going to have to put their prejudices behind them to make sure that doesn't happen. So even if you think you might not be interested in which of the five lovely brothers (Alaric the Golden, Coll Horse Master, aka Coll the Fat, Finn the Deaf, Erik Archer, and Garreth the Youngest) ends up with our lovely heroine, you might give it a try....
And if you like your fantasy with a nice dollop of swoon-ness, you will definitely want to read this series. For those who already have read the book, at the very bottom, past the postscript, I have more thoughts.
Here are other review at Wands and Worlds and The Merry Genre Go Round Reviews.
A postscript on how the Cybils Awards and Blogging can make a difference to a book's sales:
I read and enjoyed Northlander a while ago, entirely due to the fact that it was shortlisted for the 2007 Cybils. The Cybils, in case anyone hasn't heard of them, are the awards given by panelists of bloggers to children's and YA books to books that combine great appeal to young readers with great writing. The shortlists that the panelists come up with the various categories are Must Reads (the sci fi/fantasy shortlist for 2007 is given in full below).
When Angie began asking for book recommendations every month, I put in a plug for Northlander, thinking it was a very Angie-ish book...and it was chosen, and she read it. She liked it lots too (here's her review), and immediatly wanted the sequel. Now, The King Commands was published in the middle of April. I meant to buy it then, but the middle of April was a tricky time financially, what with other things wanting my money, and so I put it on hold. When I went back to Amazon in May, I saw, to my horror, that it wasn't for sale anymore! It didn't seem to be for sale anywhere, so I sighed and left it...
But then I read Angie's impassioned words when she found out she couldn't get it (from her review): "I have a problem on my hands. I need this book. I'm going insane here. I have to find out what happens..." I wanted to read it too, and I felt vaugly responsible for Angie's unhappiness. So I called the publishers to see if I could buy it for the two of us directly--and found, to my great glee, that orders had just been placed by various distributors, and sure enough, there it was on Amazon again. And lots of other places. I just checked again--a bit more than a week later, The King's Command is sold out/on backorder at Amazon, B. and N., Powells, and the Book Depository. But at least Northlander became available too, and is still there. And I bet that once all the new Northlander readers finish it, the phone will start ringing at Brown Barn Books again....
And this flurry of sales happened (it can't be coincidence...) because Northlander was shortlisted for the Cybils with good reason, and as a result made it into the hands of one of the top YA fantasy bloggers, who wrote a glowing review of it.
(Update on June 20--there's now a new copy for sale on Amazon for $146 !!!! I guess they haven't put in another order yet. Crazy.)
(update August 25--it's now available again for $8.95. Doubtless for a limited time only...)
The 2007 Cybils sci fi/fantasy shortlist (all incredibly awesome)
Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale
Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher*
Northlander (Tales of the Borderlands) by Meg Burden
Repossessed, by A. M. Jenkins
Skin Hunger, by Kathleen Duey
*Incarceron was released this spring here in the US, but came out in the UK in 2007
Spoiler for Romance aspect of the plot of King Commands:
Specifically, thoughts on Coll- I love that even though he is "the Fat" he is not only a sympathetic and nuanced character, but attractive to boot. I would have been happy if Ellin had ended up with him--kudos to Meg Burden for this. At the end, however, the implication is there that Coll will not marry and have children. This would make me sad.