Banner of the Damned provides a sweeping tale spanning the world first shown in the author's Inda books (although not part of the Inda series as the events in Banner are about 400 years after those events). The way the book is written may not be appealing to every reader, but I found the detail (and descriptions) used to be intrinsic to the book. The details (some might say minutiae) highlight the characters' differences (Lasthva's great distate for the Marlovens' warlike background, Ivandred's bafflement at the Colends' diplomatic background, Emras' seeming emotional disconnect from the world around her) and how those differences ebb, flow, change, and - to a point - fall away. The pace was great and the use of Emras as a point of reference for time (as well as through her "use" as a scribe for the events) is another point - for me- in favor for the way the book was written. While I liked all of the characters in the book, I really liked Emras and the point of view she presented - the tale is unadorned in the telling, though not emotionless. Even as she doesn't take it easy on others, she does not take it easy on herself either. I look forward to what comes next from Sherwood Smith's "pen".
Banner of the Damned is at once a story of nations and a story of people - told through the eyes of Emras, a scribe in the royal court, regarding the events that surround her. It is a story of the lives of Lasthva (a Colend princess), her sister the Queen, Ivandred (a Marloven prince who becomes a king), and various people from different walks of life and how their choices affect their own lives and those around them. It is also a story of magic - its use, its learning, why things are learned and done in a certain way, and the consequences of shortcuts and not knowing everything that might be necessary to make an informed decision.
Princess Lasva is about to be named heir to her childless sister, the queen. But, when the queen finally bears an heir, Lasva's future is shattered. Grief-stricken, she leaves her country of Colend and falls into the arms of Prince Ivandred of Marloven Hesea. His people are utterly different-with their expertise in riding, weaponry, and magic- and the two soon marry.
When the sensational news makes its way to Lasva's sister, the queen worries for Lasva at the hands of the Marlovens, whose king's mage is in league with the magical land of Norsunder-considered by Colendi to be their enemy. The queen orders Emras, a scribe, to guard Lasva.
But it may be too late-Lasva is already deeply involved with the Marlovens and their magic. War wages on, and all are forced to redefine love, loyalty, and power...