Hey everyone, Dave here – it’s been a while, I know!
Being both a reader and writer (why it’s been a while) of Fantasy, I’ve noticed quite a cool trend – at least in the last couple of years, and I think this trend has shown itself because of different, but important, gears clicking into place. The two biggest gears would be the Mark Lawrence-championed Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off – if you don’t know what that is, or who Mark Lawrence is, I despair of one day meeting you and will endeavor to wear a disguise so that you don’t recognize me. But check out this post to get a good idea of what SPFBO is and does. 😉 The other big gear would be the fact that self published SFF is carving out a space for itself (as it should and deserves to do) and becoming more widely talked about, shared and celebrated. I’m not saying that there isn’t still oceans of garbage to wade through, but the writers who are serious about their craft have upped their game considerably, to the point where the ‘big publishers’ are the ones on the back foot and struggling to catch up.
A great example of this exciting and powerful trend is the book I’m reviewing in this post – Kingshold. Not what I expected at all, but better than all my expectations.
I came across this book on Twitter – David had tweeted that he would be giving away paperbacks of Kingshold to a lucky number of folks who RT”d the Tweet – I was one of the people who retweeted, simply because I knew that I have many friends in both the US and UK who would be intrigued by the book and would want to take part. I was one of the winners, (I know; books above the lottery, any day) and I DM’d him, thanked him, and let him know that he might want to draw another winner in my place because I’m in South Africa and postage here is both expensive and prone to the kind of mishaps you’d think a heist-gang was behind… Anyway, David said he’d send me an ebook, which he did, and a couple of months later, here we are. 🙂
The book opens with the king and queen in Kingshold, the capital city of Edland, gazing dully out at their subjects. When you, the reader, find out why the monarchs seem so dull, you realize that this isn’t what you’ve been expecting – and that it also may be the start of something cool. As the tale unfolds, we meet a varied cast of characters (all central to the main- and side-plots) and also get such a wonderful mind’s-eye picture of the city that I didn’t feel the need to flip back to the maps (yes, there are two; kickass, right?). So, I was immediately struck by how well David balanced not only the main plot (which kicks off on the first page; no joke), but the characters and the world building. Seems really effortless, and that’s how I know how damned difficult is probably really was. We meet the different characters in different districts and get to know them a bit as the districts become more detailed and present in our minds, and all the while events continue to keep the plot-threads ticking and twitching.
Swinging back to the characters, we meet a sorcerer, his servant, her sister, an inn-keeper, a bard, three mercenaries, assorted noble-people (mostly rich and few of them nice), the chancellor, the spy master, and a young woman with cool magic who has an important link to the sorcerer. And many others, but that there is the main cast – and another reason why I was really enjoying the book as I was introduced, because reading a book featuring a ‘main’ character invariably means that the character is safe, i.e. he / she won’t die. Of if they do, they come back. Or possess someone. Or something. You know what I mean. So, with many characters shifting into and out of the spotlight, the sense of that safety net isn’t there. At all. Which also means that there’s a constant thread of tension in each chapter, and calls for more investment from the reader because will they all survive?!
And the plot, which keeps rolling on from the point of dull-eyed royal gazes, makes many twists and turns while keeping the tension tight and also offering many moments of laugh-out-loud comedy (or misfortune). There are cool battles and duels, witty comebacks and cutting remarks, cool magic backed by a great magic system, and an ever-expanding sense of ‘this world is biiiig’. In my estimation, Kingshold is exactly the kind of novel which long-time readers of Fantasy will enjoy and which will also reel in newcomers. It’s evident to me that David had a lot of fun writing this novel, and also that, in it, he celebrated much of what makes Fantasy so inclusive, fun and memorable.
Now, what did I expect? Vast battles! Sieges! World-breaking sorcery! Why? (blame that on Steven Erikson). Is that what Kingshold gave me? Nope – and I’m glad, because the novel is so much better than what I expected. Too often we allow ourselves to pushed into a corner by reading almost exclusively in one sub-genre, and yes, I love Epic Fantasy and Grimdark, but those sub-genres couldn’t pull off what David has done in Kingshold. It’s fresh, fun, considered, and an absolute page-turner, joyfully using all that makes Fantasy such a damned cool genre to read – and write in. Seriously, order your paperback and begin reading the ebook while you wait; you’ll thank me. Or not. But I live sufficiently far away from most of you that I’ll be safe. 😉
10 out of 10 – read this!
To order your copies, click here for Amazon US and here for Amazon UK. And don’t forget to check out David’s site, either – he goes into his writing process, introduces the characters, explores Kingshold and its environs, and you can also get a free ebook by signing up for his newsletter.
Over at Out of This World Reviews, Nick Borrelli revealed the cover and detailed the line-up of tales in David’s Tales of Kingshold – a collection which features many of the characters you’ll meet in Kingshold, both before and after the events of the first novel. It’s on my MBR (must-be-read) list, and I’m sure it’ll be on yours once you’ve enjoyed Kingshold. 🙂
Until next time,