I finished listening to the audio version of The Bone Doll’s Twin, the first in Lynn Flewelling’s fantasy epic THE TAMIR TRIAD, around midnight a few days ago. Instead of going to bed, like normal people might, I immediately downloaded book two, The Hidden Warrior, and listened for a couple more hours. That’s how much I was involved in this story about a young girl who doesn’t know she’s magically hidden in the body of a boy.
Tobin, who’s really a girl, has had a difficult childhood. When he was born, his uncle, the king of Skala, was covertly killing off the royal women and girls because a prophecy says that the land must have a queen as ruler. King Erius had gained his throne through treachery and he intends to keep it. Tobin’s parents asked a magician to hide their newborn daughter, but they didn’t realize what kind of dark magic they were getting into. The cost was heavy and now Tobin’s mother has gone mad and Tobin’s twin brother is an evil ghost. On top of that, Tobin’s family has moved to their country estate because they fear that the king’s magicians might be able to detect the cover up. Tobin is an odd child already, so it doesn’t help that he’s being raised so far from noble society. His father and the magicians who help him must mold Tobin into someone worthy to take the throne someday.
These days I don’t have as much patience as I used to for long epic fantasies involving prophecies and boys coming of age, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying The Bone Doll’s Twin so much. Lynn Flewelling’s writing style is pleasant and her story gently moves along at a pace that’s leisurely without becoming dull, most comparable perhaps to Robin Hobb’s FARSEER saga. There is a large cast of male and female, young and old, magical and normal, common and noble characters who are well developed, not simply stock characters. It helps that we see the story from several of their perspectives, not just Tobin’s.
A main theme in The Bone Doll’s Twin is gender identity and Flewelling handles this very well. While Tobin, who doesn’t know he’s a girl, wants to be a famous warrior like his father, and is successfully working toward that goal, he has a softer side, too, which he thinks is a weakness and fears to show others. He sleeps with a doll but we’re not really sure if that’s because he’s a girl and it’s natural for him to like dolls, or if the doll is a connection to his mother who made it. Similarly, he loves to spend his time building a model of the capitol city, a pursuit that could be seen as either a masculine or feminine hobby. While we see hints of Tobin’s feminine side, it’s all tantalizingly ambiguous so far. Things will begin to look different when Tobin reaches puberty in the next book, The Hidden Warrior.
I’m listening to the audio version of THE TAMIR TRIAD which was produced by Audible Frontiers and expertly narrated by Victor Bevine. Lynn Flewelling reads her introduction to the book. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I immediately downloaded and started listening to The Hidden Warrior when I finished The Bone Doll’s Twin. This is a story that’s worth my time.