The Black Khan, published by Harper Collins, is the second volume of Ausma Zehanat Khan’s “The Khorasan Archives”. As we read in the first book, The Bloodprint, the continent of Khorasan is on the verge of being overrun by the fanatical Talisman. There are still a few pockets of resistance to their autocratic rule. Chief among them are the Companions of Hira, an all female order of warrior/mages, a warlord named the Black Khan and several other smaller kingdoms.
Fittingly, as the Talisman not only hate the written word but also believe women need to be subjugated, the fight is led by one of the Companions, Chief Oralist Arian. Her title is also a clue to her power. She can channel the written words of The Claim – the holy book of the people – into incantations she can use in a variety of situations.
Unfortunately, as we also learned in the first book, not all who fight against The Talisman have either the purest of motives or are willing to surrender their own ambitions for the common good. Chief amongst those whose motives are questionable are the Black Khan, leader of city state Ashfall, and the head of Arian’s order, The High Companion Ilea, both of whom are playing some game known only to themselves.
Their machinations almost led to the deaths of Arain and her companions Sinna and the Silver Mage Daniyar when they were left for death in the hands of a warlord. Through their own power and help from unexpected allies they manage to escape and make their way through enemy lines to the relative sanctuary of the besieged palace of the Black Khan.
Here they not only find the amassed might of the Talisman army arrayed against them and their supposed allies, they also discover a court divided and riven with discord. With the Khan’s two chief advisors, the head of his army Arsalan and his Grand Vizier Nizam al-Murik, countermanding each other’s orders and in outright conflict about how the defence should proceed, Ashfall’s survival is in doubt.
In The Black Khan we are given a novel which not only avoids the second book sag so many series seem to suffer from, it actually ratchets up the excitement and adventure to a much higher pitch. Khan (the author) not only manages to introduce new characters into the mix she continues the development of those from the first book given them more depth and interest.
Even more impressive as she’s developing the story, she also finds new and interesting ways to introduce more of each character’s back story. All of which go a long way towards explaining, but never excusing, their actions.
While the romantic entanglements continue, especially the one between Arian and Daniyar, Khan has also strengthened her lead character and allowed her to come to a clarity of purpose. As she declares to Daniyar, anyone who truly loves her will accept her on her terms and she won’t be dictated to by anyone.
The more she begins to understand the power at her control, and the consequences of using it, the more she gains a sense of self and purpose. It’s lovely to see a strong female character developing independent of any man.
The Black Khan by Ausma Zehanat Kahn does a remarkable job of not only continuing a story but of establishing the path forward for final two books in the series.
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