Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Fifth Quarter (Quarters #2)" by Tanya Huff

Though this is the second in the Quarters series, you really don't need to read Sing the Four Quarters to read this book- the magic system is the same, but that's about it. However, I really liked Sing the Four Quarters (and it was funnier), so don't skip it unless you hate books about magic users.

I don't find myself drawn to books about assassins, but I'd never stray from the subject either- as long as it has an interesting plotline to pair with it. Vree and Bannon are a sister and brother who were trained as an assassin team, but end up in trouble when their target body-swaps with Bannon (for lack of a better term), prior to their target drinking some poison. Vree comes to the rescue and Bannon's spirit jumps into her body. Two souls, two differing personalities, in one female body. It leads to some fascinating situations, as you might guess.

My interest in this story grew from the fact that Vree was attracted to her brother Bannon sexually from the start. The author seems to have no qualms with making her characters sometimes unusually sexual beings, given most of her characters would qualify as either bisexual or pansexual (there were no apparent transgender people in this book, so I have no idea on the classification as of yet). However, let me say that the sexual parts of this book often have little to do with romance and more to do with lust- sex is basically given the same attention as what a character might eat or drink in a "normal" book.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Bannon and Vree, brother and sister, they are assassins of the highest caliber who have long plied their trade for the Havalkeen army. But all their skill and experience cannot save them from a magic-sprung trap that will see the two forced to share one body when the very man they've been sent to assassinate steals Bannon's body for himself. How long brother and sister can coexist in one body neither can guess. And so they set out to catch and defeat this foe who has already bested them once.
'But when Bannon and Vree confront this master of a magic beyond their comprehension, he offers them a terrible choice - to continue their new dual existence forever, or to betray the Empire they have served all their lives. For it is not control of Bannon's body which is Gyhard's true goal but rather the body - and with it the identity and power - of the Imperial Prince!'

Vree and Bannon are a very close knit pair of siblings- however, there are some dysfunctional aspects to that as well. Vree basically has functioned as Bannon's mother, even though she's just a year older than him. I understand that some elder sibling/younger sibling relationships might function like that, but again, Vree is attracted to her younger brother- it wasn't quite as creepy as you might think, but it did leave this reader with some brain struggles as to why I loved Vree's character so much.

Add in Gyhard, the villain in this book, and there are lots of unusual conversations going on that speed up the plot dramatically. Though there is some action in this book, much of it is conniving or manipulation between Gyhard and the assassin siblings. Vree begins to have a downward spiral near the end of the book, but there are some surprising developments that bring that about. Although I love Vree, I'm not sure that I would want to share a body with either of my brothers' spirits- I guess I'm greedy like that.

Fifth Quarter is a gripping fantasy read that ponders relationships between siblings even as a race to a possibly life-saving solutions occurs. Due to its unusual aspects, I wasn't tempted to compare this with any fantasy book I've read previously, which may have boosted the rating- but then again, Vree's character had me reading with a raised brow from the beginning. If you enjoy fantasy that pushes boundaries, but somehow maintains that classic fantasy feel, the Fifth Quarter might be a good read for you.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an unusual fantasy that had me reading with raised brows.

Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for incestuous thoughts, sexual content, the walking dead, violence, and a whole spectrum of brother/sister boundary-defying stunts.

Page Count: 416 pages

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