Kings or Pawns by J.J. Sherwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Epic Fantasy or Political Thriller? Good question, with all the awe-inspiring kingdom to view, the warlord battering at the gate, centaurs roaming the fields, and elves ruling a corrupt empire that Prince Hairem wants to change, idealistically, from within.
This isn't an average fantasy entry. It's meticulously thought out, with tons of PoV's, a lot of plot and attempts to weed out the unstable or illegal elements of the empire, like the use of necromancy, or just trying to prevent yourself from being on the assassin's list. It reads a lot like a political intrigue, with humans on the bottom and the elves being the long, long standing old-guard. In that respect, it reminds me a lot of the notable The Goblin Emperor without the goblin.
At least with this one, we've got actual battles and a very memorable warlord to contend with, too.
And mute, ass-kicking servant Alvena, of course, who was a breath of fresh air.
This is honestly a more thought-provoking epic fantasy than a bloody one, and while it does suffer from what most epic fantasies suffer from, a plethora of PoV's that may or may not get lost in the shuffle without a good roster and a glossary, a good handful of characters are sufficiently awesome to pull even an audiobook reader through without the visual aid. Mostly. Though, I do kinda wish I had one, regardless. :)
The reveals were pretty handy, though, as a way to pin the tale down pretty solidly, and the last one? Oh lordy, well, that certainly puts a whole new spin on the rest of the novel, so be prepared. :) It's subtle and deadly. Or not so subtle for us, the reader, while being supremely so for everyone else. :)
I really enjoyed the book. My only desire was more descriptions. I felt twinges of awe when the empire was described visually, and many other little times, and found myself just praying for more. Also, I'd have loved a more robust handling of the character-drawing to make all the players pop out for me so as to keep things grounded and real in my mind, but these things might be purely personal quips and not a deal-breaker by far. I'm looking forward to reading more. :) I'm certain that all fans of Erikson and Abercrombie will appreciate this book.
Oh! And thanks goes to the author for the audiobook version to review from! It was a very pleasant surprise. :)
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