This is the second book in the Crossroads epic fantasy series.

Spoilers!

The large cast of the previous book is back and there are also some new point-of-view characters, most for whom are women. Frankly, I approve of this because the previous book had only one woman POV. Still, the cast of characters is mightily huge.

The Quin soldiers are trying to make a home for themselves in the Hundred. With the money they earned in the previous book, they have bought land. They are also trying to get local woman as their wives. Their Captain Anji is still suspicious and is trying to raise an army of both Quin and local men to protect the city.

Meanwhile, the reeve Marit, who was killed at the start of the previous book, has come back to life. She’s disoriented but soon she realizes that she is, indeed, alive even though her eagle is dead. She meets another of her kind and tries to find out what is happening to her. It appears that she has become one of the mysterious Guardians, a protector of justice in the Hundred. However, some of the other Guardians seem to have been corrupted. She decides to investigate.

Another culture is added into the mix: tribes who live on the grasslands and are led by women. It’s also possible that we’ll get to know the Sirniakan Empire better in the coming books. So far, we’ve only seen glimpses of their culture.

Like the previous book, this is a huge tome. There are a lot of descriptions of places and people, and its strength is in the world-building. Sadly, the plot moves very slowly. Some of the reason is that the many POV characters have split up in almost as many places as there are POV characters. We finally get some answers about the Guardians but there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

I liked both independent Marit and a new character called Nallo. Nallo is interesting because she’s not attractive and she says what she wants, when she wants to. She’s stubborn and independent. They’re both very different from the delicate little Mai who has been pretty much the only female POV character so far.

There’s no modern romance in the book as such. An established couple from the previous book returns (yay!) and near the end of the book one of the POV males experiences love at first sight. However, he doesn’t speak to the woman in question and instead, well, leaves the country. So, I’d be really surprised if the woman turns out to have any feelings for him because they’ve never even spoken to each other. The Quin soldiers are trying to settle down in the Hundred and in order to blend in more, they are looking for local wives. There is some match making, so to speak, but they remind me more of business deals than romance. Many of the wifely candidates are women who have lost their families and villages in the war, and a marriage to an almost unknown man is the least bad option open for them. Some women are artisans or merchants who now have a chance to get a marriage where they can continue their trade. This is probably the way many marriages were arraigned during most of human history, so it fits with the feeling of the book. However, romance readers are likely to be disappointed.

There’s a lot of rape in the book. A lot. Only very few secondary women characters have not been gang raped by soldiers. On the other hand, only one of the POV women has been raped. Yet, the rapes have not been written to titillate but to show the brutality of war, treatment of slaves, and the evilness of the bad guys. It does get a bit too much at times, though. Also, the Quin are the only soldiers in the book who are not rapists and even they use whores and slaves.

I’m still intrigued enough to get the next book to see how the bad guys are going to be stopped.