Back when I was given an ARC of Seven Princes I was immediately taken in by the cover-art, done by this artist. The scene depicted, through what seemed a haze (post-battle, if you will) and a definite tenseness, seven figures standing, looking out at the reader or, more probably, facing what they’ve just overcome or preparing to stand against what’s coming. As with all good covers, there was an entire story in that cover, and thinking back there’ve been two other occasions when I had the same reaction – when I first saw Peter V Brett’s UK cover for The Painted Man and then again with the first UK cover for The Left Hand of God. I’m a sucker for a cover that tells a story, because it immediately gives me a sense of what I’m going to encounter in the novel. The cover of Seven Princes won me over straight away, that’s for sure. 🙂
When I began the book I was immediately hooked – the story-opener (a Prince who witnesses the fall of his kingdom and the death of almost everyone he cares about) was brutal and tense and exciting, and managed to set up one of the novel’s most important central conflicts nicely. It also introduced one of the characters that would not only grow and mature through the book but also surprise the hell out of me later on – in terms of character-arcs, I never saw it coming. It’s one thing to surprise the reader – it’s something else entirely to pull that surprise off, which John did brilliantly.
The rest of the characters in the novel all resonate for different reasons – a group of siblings are as different to each other as day is to night, even though they grew up under the same roof with the same parents; the prince of another kingdom is the quintessential non-hero, more of a reader and historian than a scion of his house; I could go on but half of the fun in this novel is meeting, getting to know, and journeying with these characters. 🙂
The other half has to split into world-building, magic-systems, and the plot.
John put plenty of effort into the world he created – there’s a veritable library-full of backstory that he touches on with legends and myths that mix fact and fancy, just as the legends and myths of our ‘real world’ cultures do; this made the world come alive and imparted a real sense of history and historical weight to the tale.
Magic-wise, Seven Princes has one of the most easily understandable and –to a certain degree- practical magic systems in Fantasy, and I’m sure that many, many readers will enjoy it. It’s grounded in our ‘real world’, but enough so that as the reader I was tempted to try out some of the things that certain characters in the novel do – at least until I turned the page. Then I just had to carry on reading! 😉
The novel’s plot is intricate but not overwhelmingly so – there’s plenty going on all the time, stories playing out alongside the novel’s main thrust, but none of it detracted from the overall plot, none of it stole the spotlight or pulled away my attention. Sure, there’s plenty I’d love to know more about, especially concerning events that happened in this world’s past, but these alongside-events served to sweeten the pot for me, if you will. 🙂
Finally, Seven Princes reminded me why I began reading Fantasy in the first place – the first Fantasy novels I ever read where David Eddings’ The Belgariad, and Seven Princes gave me that same sense of discovering something new and wonderful – it’s not Fantasy in the ‘tradition’ of The Malazan Book of the Fallen or even The Wheel of Time; it’s fun, fresh, entertaining, didn’t bog me down with detail, didn’t overwhelm me with intensity, even though there is plenty of detail in the novel and the journey through it (with the characters) is also an emotional journey. It’s the kind of novel that teens who have decided to leave the Young Adult section behind will love and the kind of novel that will probably remind many adults (of all ages) why they began reading Fantasy in the first place. I loved it and Book 2, Seven Kings, is definitely one of my highly-anticipated future reads. 🙂
9 / 10
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And just to whet my appetite and yours, here’s the cover for Book 2, Seven Kings. 🙂 Talk about badass!