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The Oracle's Queen    by Lynn Flewelling order for
Oracle's Queen
by Lynn Flewelling
Order:  USA  Can
Spectra, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Oracle's Queen follows The Bone Doll's Twin and Hidden Warrior to complete a most unusual fantasy trilogy. A young princess grew up disguised by magic to look in every detail like her dead twin brother, who hung around as a very angry ghost and occasional protector. Wizards did this because her uncle, King Erius, was influenced by malign wizard Niryn to kill his female relatives. Our hero, Prince Tobin, became one of the Companions of his older cousin, the weak heir, Prince Korin. Then they were all caught up in an invasion by the Plenimarans. Erius died, leaving the two cousins to contend for the crown.

As the book opens, one of hill folk witch Lhel's people, a talented male witch named Mahti, makes a new oo'lu (somewhat like a magical staff) and accepts a new cycle of his life and a quest to travel far and aid southlanders - a young man and a girl, the latter with both male and female shadows. As Mahti makes his way south to Skala, we meet Prince Tobin again. She's now revealed as Princess Tamir, though both she and her squire (and best friend) Ki struggle to cope with the gender change. Tamir intends to fulfill the Lightbearer's prophecy, that 'Skala shall never be subjugated' as long as a daughter of the ruling line sits on the throne. However Korin, now under Niryn's influence, claims Skala himself, and civil war seems inevitable.

As the new Queen of Skala deals with the damage done by the invasion, with refugees and disease, wins reparation from the Plenimarans, tries to put ghosts to rest, and accepts the allegiance of those nobles who believe in her rather unusual history, Niryn manipulates Korin's marriage to a distant female cousin, Nalia, whom he saved from Erius' purge and raised in secret. Niryn wants an heir from Korin before the prince faces Tamir in battle. While Niryn plots and waits for that event, Tamir and Ki struggle with growing feelings for each other, complicated by gender confusion and past friendship. Their fellow Companions are torn between their feelings for Tamir/Tobin and for Korin, and are badly hurt by the latter's actions, which are not at this stage under his own control.

The Queen gives Ki his first command, and he succeeds admirably. She wins new allies and prepares for a battle she doesn't want to fight. Though not without tragedy, the trilogy ends fittingly as Tamir takes 'a grass knight son of a horse thief for her consort' to found a new dynasty. While this final book still deals with Tobin/Tamir's confusing sex change, it focuses more on mixed loyalties - the Companions torn between Tobin and Korin, as well as Tamir's feelings for the wizards to whom she owes her survival, but who are also responsible for her brother's murder and her mother's madness. The Oracle's Queen is a satistying conclusion to a unique and excellent fantasy series.

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