Review: Bellica by Katje Van Loon

Conspiracy. Magic. Courage.

All Bellica Yarrow wants from life is to stay the course. Her military career fulfills her childhood dreams and affords her a freedom royalty never did. Yarrow doesn’t need anything more than the steadfast friendship of her Major, Caelum, and her Chief Medical Officer Jules.

The Goddesses have other plans, however. They set in motion events that threaten the bellica with madness and despair. Constancy has been Yarrow’s standby, but betrayals on every side push her further into chaos. She watches the puppet-Empress, her aunt, destroy the country, and dreads the day Zardria, her power-hungry twin sister, takes the Sceptre and rules openly.

Should Bellica Yarrow keep her military oath, or topple her sister’s cruel regime? Can she?

The choice is nearly impossible. The longer she equivocates, the more she risks the lives of everyone she holds dear. Meanwhile, Zardria has her own idea of how events should unfold - and what Yarrow doesn’t know could cost the bellica her life.
— Blurb

I recently finished reading Bellica by Katje Van Loon and I'm glad that I did. The book is free on Amazon or the author's website so if you like fantasy, you have nothing to lose by giving this book a chance.

The story follows several viewpoint characters and I enjoyed seeing the events from so many different perspectives. If I had one complaint it would be that some of these characters only have one or two sections from their POV, making them easily forgettable in such a large tale.

My favourite character is not the "main" character, Bellica Yarrow but instead the healer Ghia. I liked Ghia's strength and wit, her willingness to give her all to help others and her dedication to her job. Yarrow is a less sympathetic character, despite having multiple scenes from her POV. It's hard to get a grasp of what she actually cares about.

The author did a very good job with her "villain" Zardria, setting her up as a distant monster and then taking us in close to see how she became the woman that she is and show her more reasonable side.

One of the things that really stood out in this book is the author's study of gender. The status quo is switched so that women are dominant in this society and in all most of the positions of leadership. Van Loon also makes interesting use of gendered words - wife, for example, means male spouse in Athering, while husband means female spouse. The book examines gender roles without becoming preachy.

Bellica is an enjoyable fantasy novel and I look forward to reading more by this author - I've already bought a copy of the sequel, The Jade Star of Athering.