Author: Morgan Howell
Stand alone or series: First book in the Queen of the Orcs trilogy
Summary: (From amazon.com)
Born into hardship, Dar learns to rely on herself alone. When her family betrays her, Dar is conscripted into King Kregant’s army and its brutal campaign to conquer a neighboring country. Now she is bound as a slave to a dreaded regiment of orcs, creatures legendary for their savagery and battle prowess.Rather than cower, Dar rises to the challenge. She learns the unique culture and language of the orcs, survives treachery from both allies and enemies, and struggles to understand a mystical gift that brings her dark, prophetic visions. As the war escalates–amid nightmarish combat and shattering loss–Dar must seize a single chance at freedom.
Why did I read the book: Reviews on amazon averaged at 4.5 stars, and were overwhelmingly positive which encouraged me to pick it up.
Dar is a mountain girl in a family that wants nothing to do with her. Past the age of marriage at 24 years old, she has frightened away all her suitors and has earned the wrath of her stepmother. One afternoon, the King’s men demand to take someone from the household to serve in the army. As it turns out, Dar’s hateful stepmother has arranged for her procurement to the army and Dar has no choice but to go along with these men. To prevent her from escaping, the men brand her forehead with a hot iron, signifying her as a slave to the army and should she run away anyone seeing the brand knows to bring her head back will fetch a modest bounty. Hence the title, King’s Property.
Along the way to base camp, the men pick up another mountain girl, but one who was forcibly taken from her family. The girl is terrified and fears what awaits them in the soldiers’ camp, for she and Dar are told they will be ‘cooks’ for not only the human regiments, but for the Orcs as well. Before they make it back to the army, the girl manages to hang herself, taking her own life over death at the hands of men or getting eaten by Orcs.
Dar chooses to tough it out, but finds life in the camps are every bit as hard and terrible as expected. The camp is brutal and rigid in its running. The women are there to cook, pack, do all the grunt work while the soldiers eat and pillage. The men in these regiments are the dregs of the army, as the ‘good’ soldiers want nothing to do with the Orcs. For the women, the only protection they can afford themselves against rape or beating is to find ‘a man’—that is, to have certain men who they belong to. In turn for their sexual favors, the men provide tossoffs from their pillages (a blanket, a pair of tattered shoes, liquor). Dar is viewed immediately as an enemy by the camp women because men are always interested in the ‘scabheads’ (new girls with scabbed scars from the fresh brand on their foreheads), and fear she will take away their men. Dar, who has been a victim of abuse at the hands of her father and former suitors, will not sell her body for the joke of protection and favors from the soldiers, and quickly finds herself the center of anger from both the men (who attempt to rape her) and women (who hate the attention she attracts).
Also in the camp are the Orcs. They fight alongside the washavoki (Orcish for men) because their Queen has told them too. The Orcs are fierce killers and single minded, but are completely without guile. They do not understand or even have a word for “lie” or “deception” in their language. While the Orcs disdain the smelly washavoki, they have a matriarchal society, and worship Muth la or Mother. One Orc named Kovok-mah notices Dar and refers to her as Dar gu (Orcish for “weasel”) and recognizes her as a mother (in Orcish, women are all considered mothers). As Dar’s problems with the men in camp escalate, she seeks refuge with the Orcs, and falls under the protection of Kovok-mah.
From the very beginning of this book, with Dar being forcibly held down and branded as property to the grim but realistic view of life in army encampments, I knew that King’s Property would be a harsh, but gripping fantasy. Mr. Howell creates a world that feels very real, and makes a biting commentary on human nature in his comparison between man and orc.
Notable Quotes/Parts: All the interactions between Dar and the Orcs are worth noting. I loved the tweaks and additions that Mr. Howell brought to the Orc culture (which, let’s face it has been done to death and resurrected since LOTR). The Orcs are savage killers but have a surprisingly gentle and fair society. Kovok-mah and Dar make an interesting pair.
Additional Thoughts: At the end of the book, there is an extensive glossary of orcish terms and language rules. By extensive, I mean EXTENSIVE. Not only are there just a few key terms, but grammar rules, conjugation guides, etc. Needless to say, I was impressed with the amount of detail and thought Mr. Howell put into Orc culture.
Verdict: Strong first book in what looks to be a solid trilogy. I will be picking up books 2 and 3 (as they were all published within a few months of each other).
Rating: 7 Very Good
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