Warmaidens by Kelly Coon

2 / 5 stars
Read in January 2021
Book #2 in the Gravemaidens duology

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the conclusion to this duology as much as the first book. This confirms my thoughts that Gravemaidens would have made a strong standalone novel, as the high stakes and intrigue that made it such a page-turner were unfortunately absent in Warmaidens. Instead, the events of this book seemed disjointed as Kammani and her allies jumped from one part of their haphazard plan to the next in an attempt to dethrone the usurper king and replace him with the rightful heir. The dialogue throughout came off like a stilted rehashing of the exposition, and oftentimes the story dragged and was difficult to get through. Light spoilers for Gravemaidens ahead.

That being said, this story does have funny moments, touching moments, and violent moments peppered throughout, each of which elicited strong reactions from me or had me on the edge of my seat. I appreciated the solid character arcs Kammani and many side characters underwent. At times, Kammani’s internal conflicts around murder as a means to an end or what marriage would mean for her freedom were definitely more thought-provoking than the external conflict.

However, one would think a title like “Warmaidens” paired with an amazing cover of dangerous scorpions, plus the introduction of a Kyoshi Warrior-esque group of female fighters in the first chapter, would make for some interesting and intense action scenes… but sadly this isn’t quite the case. While I appreciate that the leading ladies use skills other than fighting to wage war—Kammani her healing, Nanaea her sewing, and Iltani her feminine wiles—it was a letdown given the aforementioned details. In addition, a majority of the group’s plans revolve around Nanaea’s skill, and by the end of the book it became repetitive and unrealistic. Although Kammani and her friends train with the formidable Koru warriors at one point, this mighty band of warriors isn’t too important until their deus ex machina appearance at the end of the book.

In addition, three characters I found among the most intriguing from book one—Arwia, Nasu, and Gudanna—were not used to their full potential. Arwia’s circumstances as the rightful heir to throne arguably made her one of the most compelling characters in the story, yet the group leaves her and Nasu at camp for her safety. It seemed like Kelly Coon didn’t want to worry about accounting for too many characters, so she had them stay behind. Gudanna, on the other hand, made a much more nuanced villain than Uruku, and focusing on her would have made Kammani’s moral debate around murder even more interesting. Lastly, it felt like a missed opportunity that Gudanna’s birth scene did not play out on page, as it would have made a poignant parallel to one of Kammani’s most intense and traumatic flashbacks from book one. The ending just felt a bit rushed, with a neat bow wrapping everything up tied on top.

Despite my mostly negative review, I’m looking forward to what Kelly Coon will come up with next. This duology has its memorable moments and is definitely unique in the realm of YA Fantasy!

CW: violence/gore; sibling death; parent experiencing death of their child; mention of parent death; limb amputation; on-page sexual assault (groping, lewd comments); alcoholism; forced marriage; mention of rape; please let me know if I’m missing anything.

Thank you to Random House Children’s/Delacorte Press via Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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