I read this novel in approximately 2005, in America. It was marketed for adults.

It was set in a fairly typical medieval-esque fantasy setting. The main character was a woman, and I think she could use magic. The main conflict of the novels was between the woman and a character who I believe was her brother. Her brother is a ruler, and he fights the main character with military force.

At some point during the novel, the brother's friend is killed and he refuses to accept his friend's death and treats him as if he were alive. There is a particularly evocative scene where the dead friend is propped up at a feast table while his decomposition is described in detail, but the brother still acts as if he is alive. All of the brother's subordinates are too terrorized by him to admit that his friend is dead.

I also remember that the end of the book gave a quick summary of all the characters' lives after the end of the plot, and that the main character lived for many years but then died of (uterine?) cancer.

I believe this was a single book, but it also may have been a duology. It definitely wasn't part of a trilogy or a larger series.

  • Are you still around to answer more questions?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 14:27
  • @FuzzyBoots, I am now. I've tried to put everything I remember in the post, but maybe there's something I've forgotten.
    – mle
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 3:51
  • :) And I'll admit that I forget what question I was going to ask you, but I'll try to put my brain on it again. Standard comment, check out the checklist at scifi.stackexchange.com/tags/story-identification/info and run down the list. It's surprising how often that will evoke something.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 9:53

1 Answer 1


It's The One-Armed Queen by Jane Yolen.

In a land of magic, the great warrior Queen known as White Jenna has found a frail, one-armed child on the battlefield. She adopts the child and names her Scillia. As is custom with the Hames of the Dales, Scillia will be next in line for the throne. A great honor.

But Jem—Jenna's natural-born son—covets the throne for himself. Will he risk open rebellion to claim what he believes is rightfully his?

Can Scillia stop him?

My memory was wrong in a couple of important ways: It looks like it's YA (or at least it's been reprinted as YA). Also it's the concluding book in a trilogy, which I said it "definitely" wasn't...

But this goodreads review mentions (in the spoiler section) the scene I remembered, where the villain murders his younger brother, but believes his decaying body is still alive.

I checked out an ebook from my local library, and the ending is the same as I remember too, describing the characters lives long after the story has concluded.

  • 1
    wow after all these years lol, impressive Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 5:01
  • 1
    This has bugged me for SO LONG. Thanks to this meta-answer: scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/a/12294/79936 I thought to search goodreads and eventually found it
    – mle
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 5:12

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