The Empress of Xytae by Effie CalvinThe Empress of Xytae by Effie Calvin is a fantastic addition to the series and can happily be read as a stand alone. But why would you want to do that when you can enjoy three other kick-ass books before this one?

Crown Princesss Ioanna of Xytae is in a precarious position as she is blessed by a god who has pretty much been driven out of Xytae entirely in favour of the goddess of war, Reygmadra. Ioanna’s entire family is blessed by Reygmadra, a blessing that is seen as a great boon in the empire of Xytae.

When Ioanna came along with Iolar’s blessing then Reygmadra was furious. Her domain will come to an end in Xytae and as a result she is about to lose power. In an attempt to keep her stronghold in Xytae, Reygmadra does anything she can to kill Ioanna and replace her with someone who carries her own blessing and continues to promote her worship.

Ioanna is the furtherest you can get from a war mongering monarch. She is peaceful, considerate and can tell the truth from a lie because of her truthsayer blessing.

When her father dies her younger sister, Neitheia (who has Reygmadra’s war blessing), takes up arms against Ioanna in an attempt to claim the throne before she is crowned.

Ioanna must flee for her life.

Princess Vitaliya of Vesolda has come to Xytae in an attempt to show her father how little she cares about his new bride to be. She is flighty and loves to party.

When she saves Ioanna’s life and helps her escape the castle the two women are bound together by more than just circumstance.

As Ioanna stands on the precipice of rulership she finds that old allies and new friends might be exactly what she needs in order to change the world.

The Characters

I do love the juxtaposition of the serious and studious character and the party girl that Effie Calvin does so well. And even though that is a common trope in the series we manage to get engaging, interesting, in-depth characters that are never the same.

In this book we get to meet an older Ioanna, who we met as a child in Daughter Of The Sun. It’s a delight to see her story come to light and it was tons of fun to see what happened to Orsina and Aela.

Ioanna is powerful and if she were in any other part of the country then she would be revered for her gifts as they are not granted lightly. Since Xytae is exclusively about war and Reygmadra’s followers see her only as a threat she has lived in isolation, hiding her true nature and so she is reserved and shy.

Vitaliya is a party girl. She likes pretty things and sees absolutely no reason that people won’t be nice to her. By helping Ioanna, though, she comes to realise that she is much more than just someone who is fun to be around and just maybe she is key to helping Ioanna win this fight.

The Writing Style

Effie Calvin writes in such a way that the characters vividly come to life. Their dialogue, actions and interactions are pure genius and I adored every word.

The Pros

I love how perfectly different and yet loveable all Calvin’s main characters are. I also appreciate that the party girl character’s rarely get along with one another. It makes it fun to watch and delightfully difficult to pick a side since I love them all so.

I also loved that there were some snippets into what was happening with the gods and goddesses, it rounded out the story and made Reygmadra more accessible.

The Cons

There is violence and a general sense of one side trying to oppress the other side, for those who don’t like that sort of thing consider this a heads up. Personally, I loved every word and am happily going to be reading it again in the future.

sheena's favouriteThe Conclusion

With every book Effie Calvin becomes a stronger storyteller and character creator, which is pretty amazing considering how much I have enjoyed all her previous works.

She has a unique voice as a writer and creates interesting characters and fun problems for them to overcome.

I highly recommend that you pick up her books, especially if you enjoy fantasy that is accessible and character driven rather than having excessive details about the world.

Excerpt from The Empress of Xytae by Effie Calvin

Chapter One


When Ioanna of Xytae emerged from her bedroom, she was not expecting to find a body sprawled across her doorway. Corpses were rare—though certainly not unheard of—in the Imperial Palace, and usually the servants were quick enough to tidy them away before they could inconvenience anyone.

Ioanna held her breath and prodded the body with her foot, trying to roll it over so she could see if it was anyone she knew. The corpse groaned, and Ioanna exhaled in relief. Not a corpse, then. Just a drunk.

“Hello. You’re on the floor,” said Ioanna pleasantly. “You might want to get up.”

“I can’t find my room,” the prone figure mumbled. Then she covered her eyes with her hands. “Why is everything so white?”

“Because it’s all made of marble. Can you stand if I help you?”

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

“What’s your name?”

“You’ll never believe me,” the young woman said with a groan. She looked to be about Ioanna’s own age, around twenty years old, but Ioanna did not recognize her as a member of the court. “Vitaliya. Of Vesolda. Gods, why is it so bright in here?”

Ioanna knelt and positioned Vitaliya’s arm over her own shoulders, so she could help her to her feet. “Where are you staying?” she asked once they were upright.

“Uhum…” Vitaliya looked around blearily. Her brown hair was hopelessly tangled, and her face was red and blotchy. Despite that, Ioanna could tell she had a pretty face, round with a soft nose and delicate lips. “Somewhere…”

“It’s probably not far. We put all the visiting royals down this way,” explained Ioanna, taking a few steps to the right. Vitaliya remained limp and unresisting as Ioanna pulled her along. “Is any of your family here with you?”

“No.” Vitaliya squinted ahead as they walked. “That one! That door! That’s mine; I’m very nearly sure.”

“Do you have your key?”

Vitaliya rummaged in her pockets, and eventually one of her hands emerged with a heavy bronze key. She managed to unlock the door, and they staggered into the room together. The curtains were still drawn, and Vitaliya sighed into the cooling darkness.

Once Ioanna’s eyes adjusted, she realized dresses were strewn all over the place like Vitaliya had tried each of them on briefly, and then discarded them. She tried her best not to step on any as she helped Vitaliya toward the nearest chair. “Didn’t you bring any friends or servants with you?”

“No, none at all,” said Vitaliya cheerfully. “They’d rather be at the wedding than here, so I came alone. Who needs any of them?”

“What wedding?” asked Ioanna.

“My father’s! He’s marrying some horrible woman, so now I hate him forever.”

“That’s not true,” Ioanna said quietly.

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Tales From Inthya

Queen Of Ieflaria

Daughter Of The Sun

Queen Of Rhodia

Empress Of Xytae

Bits and Bobs

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Sheena is the founder of The Lesbian Review.

She discovered lesbian fiction when she was 19. Radclyffe and Karin Kallmaker soon became favourite authors and she spent a large part of her hard earned income on shipping books from to her home in South Africa.

Over the years she became frustrated with purchasing mediocre lesbian fiction feeling like it was a waste of her money and time. And so she decided to share only the best books and movies with lesbians who are looking for only the best. And so, The Lesbian Review was born