Book Review: The Daughters’ War (Blacktongue, #0) by Christopher Buehlman

Book Review: The Daughters’ War (Blacktongue, #0) by Christopher Buehlman

ARC provided by the publisher—Tor Books—in exchange for an honest review.

Cover art illustrated by Marie Bergeron

The Daughters’ War by Christopher Buehlman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Series: Blacktongue (Book #0)

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Pages: 416 pages (Kindle edition)

Publish date: 25th of June 2024 by Tor Books (US) and Gollancz (UK)

The Daughters’ War is a very different kind of prequel novel from The Blacktongue Thief.

“One who has studied and thinks oneself capable might be undone to discover how much less one knows than one thinks.”

When I first heard about the announcement for The Daughters’ War, my initial thought was that this felt like a novel I didn’t know I needed. For those who don’t know, The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman came out in 2021. Three years ago. Back then, before the publication day, there was a lot of hype and praise gifted by many amazing epic fantasy authors. And The Blacktongue Thief became one of the most entertaining novels I’ve read with the right balance of darkness and laughing-out-loud humor. In that book, Galva is one of the distinct supporting characters from The Blacktongue Thief who accompanies Kinch Na Shannack, the protagonist, in his quest. The Daughters’ War is a prequel novel about Galva and her participation in the Goblin’s war. Unfortunately, as much as I want to like it, I did not enjoy this book as much as The Blacktongue Thief.

“Give the Mouth of the Storm to Galvicha, for that is truly where she is going.”

The goblins have killed mercilessly. They have enslaved cities, burned fields, and still they wage war. Now, the daughters take up arms. Galva ― Galvicha to her three brothers, has defied her family’s wishes and joined the army’s untested new unit, the Raven Knights. They march toward a once-beautiful city overrun by the goblin horde, accompanied by scores of giant war corvids. Made with the darkest magics, these fearsome black birds may hold the key to stopping the goblins in their war to make cattle of mankind.

“I think now that I acted pridefully, that I was showing off. But I would forgive another twenty-year-old this, and so I forgive myself. This has been a hard skill to learn, the forgiving of self, and it is not always easy to know when it is good and when it is indulgent. But there is not so much time in life that we should spend it being sorry. It was a glorious hour or so, in a time of fear and horror, and I would not trade the memory of it for a feeling that I had behaved more properly. Such things are good, in moderation. Moderation, too, is good in moderation.

And that’s really it. Not only that’s the premise of the The Daughters’ War, that’s the entire novel in a nutshell. Of course, being a prequel novel, if you’ve read The Blacktongue Thief, you’ll know the fate of Galva and her family. It is all about the details. But reading The Daughters’ War, at the end of the day, did not grant me with many things I didn’t know plot-wise. It might make rereading The Blacktongue Thief more enriching, though, because we learn so much more about Galva, the world-building, and the war mentioned relatively often in that book. The entire story is told (mostly) from the first-person perspective of Galva in a memoir format. Occasionally, we’ll be switching to reading a journal written by Amiel, one of Galva’s beloved brothers. This provided me with a variety of reading experiences. And believe me, the story in The Daughters’ War did get dark and brutal. Much more than The Blacktongue Thief. However, this became one of the weaknesses of the book for me. Not because of the darkness per se, but because the only characters I cared about and felt invested in were Galva and Amiel.

“First I saw Pol, and we embraced, and I felt glad. Then I saw Galva and my heart lit from within. I do not know if it is because she is my full sister, or because she has always watched over me, at least those early years, and those holiday visits when she was home from the Academy of Sword, but I have always felt her to be something more than just a sister. Something between a sister and a best friend and a guardian spirit. She is more precious to me than cool water and a roof.”

I highly enjoyed reading about Galva’s character development and her complex relationship with her family and The Raven Knights. But it is worth noting that, as I said at the beginning of this review, The Daughters’ War is very different when compared to The Blacktongue Thief. Two other main reasons other than the storytelling format, Galva is a stoic character with few words, and I believe The Daughters’ War is more rooted in military fantasy rather than epic fantasy quest demonstrated in the Blacktongue Thief. I won’t lie. For more than half of the book, I did not feel there was a clear goal of Galva’s memoir other than to, well, inform readers about her past. Personally, I found Galva’s stoic demeanor and this factor to decrease my reading enjoyment.

“When a member of the family first begins to hurt you, they may choose from many weapons, all sharp, all sure to draw blood. The first cuts are the worst, though every cut will hurt, no matter how well you learn to hide it.”

It is not all bad, though. As you can tell, I have mixed feelings about The Daughters’ War. Some parts did not click with me, and some parts did. One of my favorite things about The Daughters’ War, similar to The Blacktongue Thief, is reading Buehlman’s writing. There’s always something about his prose, even though this is a different kind of book to its predecessor (or sequel), that feels charming and compelling. I had a great time reading Buehlman’s prose. The goblins are still terrifying as hell, and as I said earlier, the world-building in The Daughters’ War is incredible. Additionally, if you are a reader who loves reading military fantasy, I think you will get a kick out of the tactics, battles, and the character’s struggles.

“To move an army well is more difficult than to win a battle. Many battles are lost before they are fought because soldiers are starving, or they have not slept, or they are so mad for water they cannot be kept in formation near a stream.”

Overall, I will conclude by saying The Daughters’ War is a good prequel novel that did not feel fully compatible with me. It is difficult to top Kinch Na Shannack’s distinct narration and storytelling. Humor is one of the most challenging things to nail in fantasy fiction, in my opinion, and my admiration of The Blacktongue Thief improved a lot because of how good Buehlman is at including humor in his narrative. It is unfortunate and understandable that we do not have that in The Daughters’ War. However, I will remind you who’s reading this review right now. I am certainly on the unpopular side with my lukewarm reaction to The Daughters’ War. Most reviews and ratings I’ve seen toward this book are incredibly positive, and I urge you to read The Daughters’ War regardless of my review. It is undoubtedly a tale of war, betrayal, and vengeance. I look forward to reading the sequel of The Blacktongue Thief.

“I did not know what to say to this, so I grunted, which made him laugh one quiet ha, which in turn made me smile. To love someone well is to know their small noises, and to hear home in them. This is not a small thing on foreign soil.”

You can order this book from: Amazon | Blackwells (Free International shipping)

The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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