Warlord is the last book in Jennifer Fallon’s WOLFBLADE trilogy which is a prequel to her DEMON CHILD trilogy and part of her HYTHRUN CHRONICLES. Like its predecessors, Wolfblade and Warrior, it’s a huge sprawling epic (26 hours on audio). The story starts immediately after the tragic events of Warrior (which you really must read first). Marla is still the wealthiest and most powerful woman in the country, but she has taken a major hit and, in some ways, feels alone, despite her large family.
Hablet, the Fardohnian king, is planning to take advantage of Hythria’s weakness while the country is recovering from a plague and while their high prince, Lernen, a useless wastrel, is still ruling. Hablet is massing his army for an invasion and hoping that his independently-minded daughter Adrina won’t ruin things for him. (Hint: She is an important character in the DEMON CHILD trilogy.) Both Marla and her nemesis, Alija Eaglespike, want their own sons to lead Hythria’s army against Hablet. Because of what happened in the previous book, the publically cordial relationship between Marla and Alija has broken down and both women are openly plotting against each other.
Meanwhile, back in Krakandar, Mahkas has become paranoid because Damin is nearing his age of majority. Mahkas is frantically trying to hold on to his rule of the province, and he’s desperate to keep certain secrets that he’s been hiding since book one. He has turned into a mad despot while Damin is away with the Hythrun army. It will take all of our protagonists — Marla, Damin, Marla’s other children’s families, and several friends and allies — to set things to right in Hythria. Most importantly, Damin, who has been trying to fly under the radar by pretending to be just as much of a wastrel as his uncle is, can now show the world that he’s ready to be a warlord.
Several other subplots are going on, too, of course. A couple of these involve women’s issues — one woman is being beaten by her husband and wants a divorce. Another wants to be able to rule her own province instead of being forced to marry a man who can rule it for her. Even Marla, the most powerful woman in the country, has no authority of her own. Her power only comes from her ability to influence the men in her life. How will the various power struggles going on in Hythria and Fardonyha affect how women will be treated now and in the future?
Fans of the WOLFBLADE trilogy are sure to be satisfied with this final installment. It’s got everything we expect from Jennifer Fallon: murder, treachery, love, hate, jealousy, adultery, schemes, revenge, tragedies, triumphs, twists. Fallon keeps us guessing about how things will turn out. While we expect the Wolfblade family to eventually triumph, what we don’t know is how much they’ll have to lose to do so.
My complaints are minor and the same as before — mainly an inability to get completely absorbed because some of the culture and plot seems contrived for dramatic effect. Also, I just didn’t think Marla and Damin were as clever as the other characters thought they were. Some of their brilliant tactics seemed either obvious or unnecessarily elaborate or risky to me. A few of the characters (especially Lernen and Mahkas) go over the top in this installment and some of the dialogue is inappropriately modern. But readers who’ve overlooked these minor details before shouldn’t have any trouble doing so this time either, and most will be eager to move on to the DEMON CHILD trilogy, if they haven’t already read it (or maybe even if they have). It features Damin and Adrina in later years.
Maggie Mash narrates Audible’s version of Warlord. As I mentioned in my review of Warrior, she has a lovely voice but her pace is slow (but it’s easy to increase the speed with Audible’s app) and her reading of the dialogue tends to be choppy at times. Still, I’d recommend WOLFBLADE on audio for readers who enjoy character-driven political dramas and revenge fantasies.