Thursday, 6 December 2012

The King's Man by Rowena Cory Daniells

The King's Man by Rowena Cory Daniells is a novella set in the King Rolen's Kin universe. It follows, Garzik, one of the characters whose fate in the trilogy is not definitively known (he's presumed dead when he disappears). It (and this review) contains some spoilers for the ending of book two, The Uncrowned King, but not any for book 3, The Usurper. The story starts just before the end of book two and while it fills a gap the trilogy doesn't cover, I don't think previous knowledge of the trilogy is required to enjoy this novella. I read the trilogy something like two years ago and it took me a while to remember who characters were when I started The King's Man. I found, however, that the story made perfect sense in the interim.

The King's Man follows Garzik (the younger brother of Orrade for those of you who've read the trilogy), a fourteen or so year old lord's son who was close to the royal family. When their kingdom is under attack he is sent to light the warning beacon but is waylaid and captured by slavers on the way. This is the beginning of his many misfortunes.

Daniells does not pull any punches and many horrible things happen to Garzik. There were many moments where I cringed on his behalf and several generally tragic moments. It felt like each time something could go wrong or could work out OK, the worse case happened. However, all of this served to give Garzik a trial by fire (or inferno) forging him into a stronger person by the end of the story. I really hope he appears in the sequel to King Rolen's Kin.

What I found interesting in The King's Man is the way in which Daniells uses other characters to illustrate Garzik's own character traits. Most obviously this is done with a similarly aged and noble boy in the same situation as Garzik in the second half of the novella, who copes much less well with his circumstances than Garzik does. But Daniells also uses a variety of other characters who all react in different ways to Garzik at various times. It was refreshing to have such a broad range of perspectives presented, even though most of them were from minor characters. Just because everyone agrees something is horrible, doesn't mean they won't react to it in different ways. Garzik is a survivor, but he's not the only kind of survivor we encounter in the story; a variety of horrible things happen to every character.

The King's Man was a great read and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy. Those of you waiting to find out what happens next to Byren and the other main characters in King Rolen's Kin won't find answers in this novella. It will, however, remind you why you loved the series so much in the first place. And it builds on the world Daniells has already set up by exploring an area not covered in the trilogy. While I'm at it, I also highly recommend the King Rolen's Kin trilogy which I read before I started this blog. It's a really great piece of political intrigue type epic fantasy set in a cold world where only a small strip of land around the equator is habitable (it also takes place on a smaller scale than the Outcast Chronicles). And I have it on good authority that Daniells is currently writing the fourth King Rolen's Kin book, so it shouldn't be too long a wait for more "adventure, betrayal, revenge and unrequited love" (to quote the author's tweet).

4.5 / 5 stars

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the author.

2 comments:

  1. It was a confronting read. Your observation about the characters that help reveal Garzik's traits was something I hadn't even thought off but agree with entirely

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  2. Especially the two young Merofynians and the other Rolencians at the start. It was masterfully done.

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