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The Horsemen's Gambit: Book Two of Blood of the Southlands    by David B. Coe order for
Horsemen's Gambit
by David B. Coe
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Horsemen's Gambit follows The Sorcerors' Plague as the second book in David B. Coe's Blood of the Southlands (set in the same world - ravaged by war between the magical, white-haired Qirsi and the dark-haired, long-lived Eandi - as Winds of the Forelands).

In the first book, a child grew up seeking revenge for the destruction of her village and, as an old woman, Lici, unleashed terror on the innocent she perceived to be her enemies. An old Mettai man Mesh (the Mettai practice a magic based on letting their own blood) sought to undo her plague, helped by his son-in-law Sirj. In parallel, powerful Weaver Grinsa was forced by the hard Fal'Borna Qirsi tribe to seek out the source of the scourge spreading through Qirsi lands - his wife and child held hostage for his return. Besh and Grinsa each sought to prevent a new interracial conflict.

This sequel carries forward Besh's and Grinsa's story strands, soon tying them together in friendship, while introducing a third. Tirnya is the warrior daughter of Jenoe Onjaef, head of a clan that once ruled in Deraqor until the Fal'Borna took that city from them in the Blood Wars. Tirnya is a Captain under her marshall father and lord governor Maisaak in Qalsyn. Though Maisaak's son and heir Enly loves Tirnya, she refuses to marry him. Now, hearing of the pestilence spreading amongst her house's traditional enemy and dismissing Enly's objections to her plans, Tirnya sees an opportunity for her family to return from their long exile.

As the story progresses, Lici's magical plague strikes again and again, while Grinsa and Besh work desperately to stop it, and Tirnya seeks allies to counter Qirsi magic in the new war that she hopes to unleash. David B. Coe ties off this second episode with a knot of hope, while leaving the Southlands on the brink of bloody conflict. I can't wait for the conclusion to his excellent series, and have added him to my must read author list.

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