Got this as a Kindle freebie and finally decided to check it out. I've had a few bad experiences with the freebies, but this was not one of them.
The story is about a woman -- Dar -- taken into the army as a serving wench. The brutality can be disturbing at times, although there is a constant thread of hope with Dar's strength and subsequent triumphs -- small victories, but inspiring nonetheless.
This is a fantasy story, of course, and I've had some problems lately with the bleakness of most fantasy writers. Robin Hobb and Brent Weeks come immediately to mind. What a joyless trip those two are! But this, while it ends on a bittersweet note, seems to have a chance of ending somewhat well for the heroine and a few other featured characters. The one truly sad event was foreshadowed, so I didn't feel like anyone ripped my guts out thoughtlessly.
There may even be a romance brewing, which would make me happy. I'm not sure, but I can say that, of all the fantasy writers I've tried since I discovered Jim Butcher, only Morgan Howell's 'King's Property' has made me anxious to get to the next installment.
If we start to go downhill, believe me, I'll dump Howell in less than a second. But the sense I'm getting is that this is ultimately a story of triumph bought by cleverness and goodness of heart, and that's a story I can enjoy.
As I mentioned, there is much brutality to women in this book. But the bad guys are revealed very soon after their introductions to be monsters so there are no gut-punching surprises in that direction. The good guys (few though they may be) are refreshing and I enjoyed rooting for them. And while the women are severely treated by some of the other characters, this is also a story where a woman, if she's willing to risk it all, can make a difference.
I hope I won't ultimately be disappointed in this series now that I'm hooked. It's happened before (Brent Weeks grrrrrr!), so there is definitely some apprehension here. But right now, I'm optimistic, and I recommend this first book of the Queen of Orcs series. We'll see what the next two bring.