A Dark Queen Rises

by Ashok K. Banker

Returning to Ashok K. Banker’s brilliant #OwnVoices, epic fantasy world of the Burnt Empire, first introduced in Upon a Burning Throne,A Dark Queen Rises features Aqreen and Krushita, a mother and daughter on a quest to protect the innocent and bring down tyrants.

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9781328916730
  • ISBN-10: 1328916731
  • Pages: 528
  • Publication Date: 04/20/2021
  • Carton Quantity: 1
About the Book
About the Author
  • About the Book
    Returning to Ashok K. Banker’s brilliant epic fantasy world of the Burnt Empire, A Dark Queen Rises features Aqreen and Krushita, a mother and daughter on a quest to protect the innocent and bring down tyrants. 


    Queen Aqreen of Aquila leaves her husband Jarsun and flees across the Red Desert. She is determined to keep her daughter from being used by Jarsun to stake his claim to the Burning Throne of Hastinaga, seat of the all-powerful Burnt Empire. But Jarsun is vengeful and can summon legions of demoniac forces at will. The Red Desert is vast, and the journey dangerous. 


    Aqreen and Krushita’s caravan of ten thousand wagons will take several years to reach the only safe harbor, the queendom of Reygar. Jarsun’s pursuit is relentless and his vengeance terrible, but hope shines from the growing powers of little Krushita herself, along with the four-armed, twin-bodied Vanjhani wagon train leader and their band of valiant desert militia. Fierce battles are in store. 


    There are other players in this great game of demigods and mortals, each pursuing their own agendas. The powerful seer-mage Vessa seeks to join Krushita’s talents with that of Drishya, an avatar destined to confront and kill Tyrak, Jarsun’s diabolical son-in-law. Ladislew the assassin aligns with Tyrak for her own reasons. All paths culminate in a feverish finale on the hot sands of Reygar, as father, mother, and daughter confront each other in one ultimate showdown.

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts

    Prologue, Epilogue 

    The Given Avatars

    Year 207 of Chakra 58

    King Gwann



          King Gwann’s kindly eyes widened. 

          The single word had not been uttered by the high priests chanting sonorously in classical Ashcrit. It had come from the altar itself. 

          The stonefire had spoken. 

          He stared at the fragment of rock that lay in the center of the large white pentangle. The altar was five times the normal dimensions—​twenty-five yards on each of its five sides, instead of the normal five yards. The tiny pebble of stonefire was a mere black dot in the center of the ash-carpeted ground. The silverwood barrier that formed the five lines of the pentangle provided further protection to the priests, ministers, nobles, and servants who sat on the periphery of the sacred space. 

          The priests had insisted on this precaution, and Gwann had agreed gladly. His desire for a successful ceremony was outweighed by his inborn terror of stonefire. To a Krushan, it was a great source of power, the searing fire a response to the call of their ancient blood. But to any non-Krushan, it was evil incarnate. 

          It had cost several scores of lives just to obtain the precious, cursed thing itself. Stonefire was not officially banned, because the Krushan knew that there was no need to ban it. The wretched substance could take care of itself, and then some. Scores of Gwann’s bravest and boldest had sacrificed their lives to acquire and smuggle it across the Burnt Empire and into Gwannland. A few had been betrayed, others were killed fighting bandits as well as smugglers who had caught wind of the enterprise, but the vast majority of those brave warriors had been killed by stonefire itself. Despite all precautions—​special yards-long silverwood tongs to handle it, a silverwood casket to contain it, and even two silverwood shields, all devised at great cost—​the wicked thing had found opportunities to lash out at its abductors and burn them to ash during the long, perilous journey. 

          Among them was Jonasi, Gwann’s late wife’s brother and his most trusted champion. With him and most of his elite king’s guards lost in the desperate quest, Gwann was left with nothing more than a few platoons of untested recruits and broken veterans. His capacity for war, or even defense, was gone. Gwannland’s coffers, bare. Gwannland’s natural resources, taken. The war against Guru Dronas had cost him everything, and the price he had paid for mere survival had been the better half of his entire kingdom. Gwannland was now Gwannland only in name. 

          All he had left now was this final, desperate gambit. 

          The Ritual of Summoning.


    And what did Gwann hope to achieve by this arcane ritual? 

          Vensera had asked him the question when he first spoke of it several months ago, after the war with Dronas ended. 

          A means of survival, he had answered. 

          She had looked at him for a long moment, her grey-green eyes searching his face the way one might look at a man to ascertain his sanity. 

          “This is Krushan sorcery,” she had said, and there was an edge of fear in her tone. She had not sounded so fearful even when they had stood on the field of Beha’al, looked out at the vast host arrayed against their own forces, and realized that they stood no chance of victory against Dronas. “These rituals are meant to summon the stone gods. And the stone gods recognize only the Krushan. We mortals were never meant to meddle in such matters.” 

          Gwann had drawn in a deep breath and released it slowly. “Neither were mortals meant to live alongside Krushan. Yet here we are. All together on a single continent. Thus has it been ever since they arrived here from wherever they came from. That is the way of our world, Vensera; it is what we are given. We can only survive by whatever means are available to us. If using Krushan sorcery is the only way to repair our fortunes, then so be it. We have no other choice.” 

          She had looked into his eyes and seen his despair, his ache at the forfeiture of territory his ancestors had fought so bitterly to win and hold for generations. “We will endure this loss,” she had said then. “It is what we do. And one day, when we have rebuilt our strength . . .” 

          She had not needed to continue. She was the greater warrior of them both, the superior strategist and tactician. His skills were those of administrator, jurist, and city planner. He had always taken her word when it came to martial affairs, just as she took his when it came to domestic ones. But he need not be a military genius to know that they stood no chance of ever rebuilding; he knew economics, and the fact was, Gwannland had nothing left to rebuild with. Everything their kingdom had possessed—​people, farms, mines, trade stations, everything and anything that could fetch income, now or in the future—​was now controlled by Dronas. He had carved out the heart of Gwannland and left them with the bare, broken bones. 

          Gwann had put a hand on her cheek, gently. She was still handsome, the scars adding to her rugged appeal. What most mistook for hardness, he knew to be a carapace; she was as soft on the inside as she was hard on the exterior. 

          “You know that will never happen,” he had said softly. “This is the only way.” 

          “It is one way,” she had admitted. “There are others.” 

          “It is the only sure way,” he had said. “If this succeeds, we will stand a chance of retaking Gwannland and ousting Dronas.” 

          She had fallen silent then. She could have countered with the argument that ousting Dronas, even if such a thing was possible now, would come with a heavy price: the wrath of the Burnt Empire. And if they had not been able to defeat Dronas at their strongest, to attempt to resist the empire at their weakest would mean total destruction. Not even the fealty oaths of his ancestors would protect them. But she said none of these things. 

          Instead she had said the one thing Gwann had never expected. 

          “Gwannland was my dowry,” she said at last. “Given to me as the price for taking you in matrimony.” 

          He had stared at her, not sure how to respond. 

          Yes, the realm was endowed to her, and she was its supreme commander. 

          That was the tradition: stree, being the stronger gender and built for war, received a dowry from the manush’s family at the time of nuptials. In this part of the world, the tradition called for the manush to gift a dowry to the stree, and Gwannland had been Gwann’s to Vensera. His only claim was a heritage, to the history of his ancestors...

  • Reviews


    "Demigods, gods, sages, and monsters of all kinds make the world of the novel a complex and fascinating place to inhabit. With fantastical creatures and settings, the politics of the novel are that much more layered. Readers who enjoyed the S.A. Chakraborty's Daevabad Trilogy and Ken Liu’s ongoing Dandelion Dynasty will enjoy the complexity of story and setting of this saga.” 




    “Ashok K. Banker is a pioneer of modern Indian fantasy, retelling the country's classic mythology fables. Upon a Burning Throne has been called "the Indian Game of Thrones." [W]ith depictions of sweeping mountain ranges, vast deserts, lush forests and cities full of colorful people, it's a vividly evocative journey. [For] those looking for something a bit more substantial, a story that promises a grand and epic scale exploring a non-Western culture in a vivid setting, Upon a Burning Throne is ideal.” 

    Los Angeles Times 


    "[A] sweeping and compelling epic, in which gods, demigods, strange powers, seers, and just plain humans all struggle for power and to make sense out their lives and fate in a world where one is never sure anything is either certain or what it appears to be.” 

    —L.E. Modesitt, Jr. bestselling author of the Saga of Recluce and the Imager Portfolio

    "[An] epic fantasy world full of constantly warring tribes, matriarchal societies, powerful sages that pop out of lakes, and the gods and goddesses very close to all the action. In this rich environment, various perspectives from the vast cast of characters are used to tell this immersive story from the internationally best-selling Banker”  

    Booklist, starred review  


    "Readers will hardly be able to pull themselves away from the layered story lines and well-developed characters. . .set in a vivid world inspired by India and the Middle East, mythology and monarchy, filled with enticing narration and action." —Library Journal, starred review  


    “Ambitious and highly readable . . . Banker (the Ramayana series) impressively depicts the loyalties and rivalries of a huge cast while moving his enormous story at cinematic pace through scales personal, political, and cosmic . . . Fans of doorstopper epic fantasy will devour this tale of gods and princes.” 

    Publishers Weekly 


    "Upon A Burning Throne is a tale told with masterful control over the narrative. The pace never slackens and the story is never offered up at the altar of world-building details. Upon A Burning Throne is undoubtedly a compelling read—it is one of those 'on-the-edge-of-your-seat' novels which keeps the reader hooked on right till the end. I would, therefore, recommend it to all lovers of fiction.” 

    —A Hindu's View