Friday, June 4, 2010
King's Dragon - Kate Elliott
For what started out as a fairly standard entrence into an epic fantasy series, I was quickly surprised. The plot starts out with strife in the land. The king and his sister are battling over succession. Interspersed in this is the story of two main characters who each have hidden pasts that neither knows about or understands, yet these pasts are set to play huge roles in the politics of the land.
I will say that the conflict between the king and his sister in this book reminds me (historically) of the war between Queen/Empress Matilda and King Steven in the early 1100's in England. Basically (for those who are not total nerds, like me), Henry I decided that his daughter, Mathilda, was his only heir and named her his successor when he died. Then, because women weren't seen as able to rule, her cousin Stephen claimed the throne for himself, thrusting England into an incredible civil war. True, the king in this book is going to war with his sister, not his cousin and the rights of succession were done a bit differently but I halfway wonder if Elliott got any inspiration for her political backdrop from England's torn history.
Elliott spends a lot of time world building and the result is impressive. This book is thick with history, politics and religion which has been a negative to several reviewers I have read online. In my opinion, I enjoyed reading the history, politics and the religion because it made the world so much more vivid and set the foundation for an incredibly complex series.
Elliott writes in such a flowing, descriptive way that you truly become swept away with the story and lose track of the fact that you are the reader, not the actual character. One of my pet peeves with some writers is that I feel as though they are giving me a list of events that transpired rather than weaving a tale for me to mentally take part in. Elliott doesn't give you a list, at all. Hours passed in the blink of an eye reading her tale. I got so involved in the characters and truly cared about their plights that I just couldn't put the book down. The result was finishing a 635 page book in a day.
I won't say the book is flawless. There are parts that dragged quite a bit. I did skim-read some sections that didn't necessarily seem to need to take up as many pages as they did. Her "evil" characters aren't exactly multidimensional. In my opinion the most multidimensional character in the book is Sanglant. However, with the other two main protagonists just starting to figure out they are more than what they seem, the potential for them to grow and expand into fascinating multidimensionality is there.
There also is a secondary thread of romance which enters the book toward the last half but it's not oppressive or nauseating. Romance doesn't really bother me that much, anyway, but I know it does with some readers. The romance in this book is very well done.
I am incredibly excited to read the rest of this series. King's Dragon set a firm foundation for an impressive epic fantasy series rife with complex history and twisting political struggles. I am excited to read on and see how the characters grow as they (and the readers) learn more about who (and what) they truly are.
I will recommend this book to George R. R. Martin fans who might think Martin's work is a bit too dark for them. This book is very complex and very political without all the gruesome details of Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. I will also recommend it to people who don't mind books heavy in politics and (of course) epic fantasy fans.