Hidden Warrior

by Lynn Flewelling

Cover image

Series: Tamir the Great #2
Publisher: Bantam
Copyright: July 2003
ISBN: 0-553-58342-5
Format: Mass market
Pages: 551

Buy at Powell's Books

This is the second book of the Tamir the Great trilogy, which started with The Bone Doll's Twin. Reading the previous book is definitely assumed. There are occasional reminder, but for the most part the story builds on previous events without any further explanation. (This is rather nice and saves a lot of time if you remember the previous book well.)

Although there is a bit more of politics and social interaction and less fighting than average, Flewelling's world remains generic epic fantasy. There is a true king (or in this case, queen) to be restored to power, the land suffers under the false king, there are magicians on both sides with pretty typical magic systems, and a dark artifact is probably up to no good. A few twists are tossed in, such as the two competing magic systems, the debate over chastity for wizards, and a false king who is more a pawn than truly evil, but even those twists don't stray far from the standard plotlines. There is little plotwise to distinguish these books from any other epic medieval fantasy other than the gender disguise of the main character.

Tobin knows from the beginning of Hidden Warrior that he's actually female, but unfortunately this results in rather less exploration of gender identity than I would have hoped. Tobin has some difficulty with the transition of form when it finally happens, and quite a bit of dislike of the idea, but also develops such things as an odd liking for dresses (of which there was not a hint prior to Tobin finding out her true gender). She's also completely heterosexual for her true gender, which is, while reasonable, also a missed opportunity to do something a bit more complex and nuanced. In short, while there is some impact from the socialization she received during her upbringing, the gender disguise is mostly skin-deep and rather more easily discarded and less influential than I would have liked.

This book, like the first one, starts very slowly, and I had trouble getting through the first 100 pages or so. It does pick up towards the end. I stayed up finishing the book, which is generally a good sign, and the story is well-told once it gets started. Brother (Tobin's demon twin) is still handled well, neither too sympathetic nor too evil, and I liked Tobin's mixed feelings towards the various associates and guardians she deals with. Most characters have a few layers of nuance and aren't purely black or white.

Again, not a bad book, particularly for the second book of a trilogy, but not particularly distinguished. It had several opportunities to set itself apart from the crowd, but largely didn't take advantage of them. That combined with a rather slow start means that I don't particularly recommend it.

Followed by Oracle's Queen.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-02-20

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