Warmaidens by Kelly Coon
Just a few moons after escaping the tomb in Alu, Kammani and the other runaway maidens have found refuge in the city-state of Manzazu. There, Kammani has become a respected healer, especially among the warriors she’s brought back from the brink of death. Now that the nightmares of Alu are fading, she can finally decide whether or not to take Dagan’s hand in marriage.
But when an assassin murders a healer he believes is Kammani and attempts to kill the displaced queen of Alu, the maidens realize they’ve been found.
Hungry for revenge, Manzazu’s queen wants to strike back at Alu with her fiercest weapons—her scorpion warrior maidens—but Kammani knows that war harms more than it heals. To save the innocents and any chance of a future with Dagan, Kammani must take down Alu’s ruler before their lives burn up in the flames of war.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED DECEMBER 15TH, 2020
Kammani is a healer, not a warrior, but when danger comes to her door, she may have to learn to become both.
Last year, Gravemaidens put Kammani in the perilous position of healer to the lugal, ruler of Alu. When she failed to heal him from poisoning, it condemned her and her sister to death, entombed with the lugal as an “honor.” Except she escaped her death sentence, freeing the sacred maidens and disappearing to Manzazu with her loved ones.
It was supposed to be a new life, but the danger has returned.
With the new lugal hunting her down, aiming to tie up loose ends in his coup, and the threat of war looming, Kammani must decide what lengths she will go to in order to protect her family, her friends, and her home. In doing so, she must also confront a very real future, one she isn’t sure she truly wants.
She has only ever wanted to be a healer her late father could be proud of, and now the only way to protect that goal is to become a killer instead.
“You are not in this life alone.”
Easily my favorite part of the Gravemaidens duology, but especially Warmaidens, is the importance of Kammani’s support group. Kammani herself is full of heart, full of compassion, and I adore her for it. At all times, she carries other people’s best interests close to her heart. But when she neglects herself, Dagan and Iltani, her love interest and best friend respectively, are ready to step in at a moment’s notice.
Despite all the danger they are in, despite all the hardship so far, despite the uncertainty still ahead, they never hesitate to offer Kammani their love and support. And I adore the different forms that support takes! Iltani is something of a wild child, and she excels at pushing Kammani to her limits when Kammani is afraid to take the plunge. Dagan, on the other hand, is 100% cinnamon roll. Where Iltani tends to push, Dagan simply holds steady, waiting to catch Kammani if she stumbles.
This dynamic occasionally has some friction, but it is immensely refreshing for the conflict to come by and large from outside the core group of protagonists. My heart is just SO FULL seeing these characters love and support each other through all kinds of terror and tragedy. More unshakable friendships in YA, please!
In terms of depth, though, Warmaidens sometimes falls shy of the standard set in Gravemaidens.
It’s not lost on me that we see very little of Nanaea in Warmaidens. Sure, her skills are instrumental to Kammani’s plans to protect Alu, but she usually seems to occupy a background seat, rather than share the center stage. After Gravemaidens so heavily focused on Kammani and Nanaea’s fraught relationship, I was hoping we could see them healing and growing closer in Warmaidens. More than that, I was hoping the themes of sisterhood would span across both books of the duology, creating a strong line between the two.
But it didn’t carry over. In some ways, it makes sense; Kammani has always thought of others first, especially in Gravemaidens. Now, she is beginning to think of herself and her future beyond just serving others. To have the central focus turn inward is sensible in some ways.
In other ways, though, I feel let down. Some of the bonds Kammani worked so hard to built in the last book feel nearly inconsequential this time, and it leaves Warmaidens feeling a little hollowed out, like something vital is missing despite all that it accomplishes.
Somehow, there is room for love even when there is war, and I hope there’s room for Warmaidens on your shelf!
In the end, I still enjoyed Warmaidens, and not just because I’m a member of Kell’s street team, the Skeleton Crew! Focusing on a healer rather than a fighter is a wonderful change of pace, and Kammani is an outstanding lead, shouldering so much responsibility for someone so young, and grappling with the consequences with unusual grace and tenacity. If you’re looking forward to the Gravemaidens duology conclusion, be sure to mark your calendars for December 15th, when it hits shelves at last!
And if you’re interested in signed and personalized copies, be sure to order from Oxford Exchange, Kell’s local indie! Or, if pre-order gifts are more your speed, check out Kell’s pre-order campaign here! The campaign is open until December 22nd, and there’s options for library requests, purchases, and international readers.
CW: violence, gore, graphic injury, loss of a loved one, alcoholism, child death mention, medical scenes, sexual assault mention, torture, animal death