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The King's Name
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"King's Name" is a sequel to "King's Peace" and is a retelling of the darker part of the Arthurian legend -- the bit where the dream of a kingdom united under one king and one law falls apart because of treachery form within the kingdom. And in case you've forgotten either the events and characters from "King's Peace," Jo Walton has provided a thumbnail sketch of everything that happened in "King's Peace" in the introduction to "King's Name."
King Urdo's dream of a united kingdom and peace for the nation of Tir Tanagiri, seems to be on the brink of destruction. And this time the threat is not from barbarian invaders, but from within. While many acknowledge that Urdo has brought peace and unity, and that his laws are just ones, others see only the thirst for absolute power and tyranny. There is also the fear that Urdo will force all his subjects to convert to this new religion of light and the one god. Fanned by fear, greed and Morthu (Urdo's treacherous nephew)'s treasonous whispering, Urdo's erstwhile friends and enemies seem poised to start a civil war. And now it is up to Sulien ap Gwien, once Urdo's most trusted of warriors and his right hand, to put a stop to this treason, and to fight for Urdo's dream of a united kingdom to remain a reality.
"King's Name" keeps pretty much to the parameters of the Arthurian legend. Nothing really terribly new or different in the manner in which the plot of "King's Name" unfolds. So why read this novel? Because it is always thrilling and poignant to read such tales. The Arthurian legend was a powerful one of hope and promise, as well as a poignant one of betrayal and treachery. And I was relieved to note that Jo Walton (thank goodness) has not bothered to include her version of the 'doomed' love affair between Guinevere and Lancelot (am I the only person bored with this "love" story?). She's concentrated instead on the dream that Urdo/Arthur had for a kingdom united under one law, the compromises that Urdo and his followers had to make in order to realise this dream, and how the failure to understand these compromises as well as the new laws, leads Urdo's erstwhile allies (and his greedy enemies) to try and topple him from the throne. We get to see how this splinters families as well as once close friends, as the entire kingdom splits into those who support their king and those back his would-be usurpers. I enjoyed "King's Peace" very much, and found "King's Name" to be a satisfying finish to this retelling of the Arthurian legend. Events unfolded smoothly, and the authour maintained a tight control on the pacing and action. She also did a wonderful job in character development. And while the chief protagonist, Sulien ap Gwien, remains the brusque and to the point warrior we're all familiar with from "King's Peace," other characters (such as Sulien's mother and her son) are fleshed more. And this gave the novel a level of texture and complexity that enhanced the reading pleasure.
'King's Name" is a powerful novel and makes for compelling reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The King's Name is another excellent novel by Jo Walton. This novel, sequel to The King's Peace, takes all of the strengths of its predecessor and leaves most of the weaknesses behind. It's a worthy addition to any fantasy fan's bookshelf.
I thought that this book was marvelous. Walton's characterization is wonderful, with the many different people populating this book having enough distinction that it isn't that hard to tell them apart. There are, at times, difficulties in remembering which side some of the characters are on, but it's not a major issue and it becomes easier as you go along in the novel. None of the minor characters are truly three-dimensional, but they all have some sort of hook that distinguishes them from the rest of the pack. I really liked that aspect of it.
The characterization of the leads is another standout. The tale is told in first person by Sulien, so everything is coloured by her interpretations. She's a very deep character with some humour and a lot of loyalty to Urdo and her friends (as long as the friends aren't on the other side of the war). She's very interesting to read about, and seeing her reactions to the events that are going on is what makes the book worth reading. Her son, Darien, is widely believed to be the son of Urdo (though he's actually the son of Ulf, a Jarnsman warrior who raped her when she was much younger) and her reaction to hearing that Darien had been named by Urdo as his heir is great. It was a bit jarring to see how easy her relationship with Darien was considering that The King's Peace didn't really end with the relationship being any warmer than it had been at the beginning. But that quickly fell by the wayside as I got caught up in the story.
Urdo is the same wise king that he was in the first book as well. There is an element of love and hero-worship in the book as far as he is concerned, mainly due to the point of view from which the book is told. Her earlier rape completely destroyed any interest in sex and love as far as Sulien is concerned, but Urdo would have to be the closest she ever came to it. Still, even with the rose-coloured glasses that the reader has to look at Urdo through, he still comes across as a kind, intelligent and determined king whose only wish is to keep the land together.
The villain of the piece, Morthu, is a decent one. He's not the most complex character, with a lust for power that isn't totally explained, but he's still interesting. He's shifty, devious, and very charming. His lies are easily believed. Walton does a good job of keeping the uncertainty in the question of whether or not Morthu is a sorcerer. Does he have great magical powers or does he just have the same magic charms from the gods that everybody else seems to have? I loved this aspect of it, and I also really enjoyed cheering against Morthu. He was a very credible threat to everything, which not all fantasy books are able to manage.
The plot is also very intriguing and well told. One of the bad things about the previous book was that the events spanned many years, so a lot of it was told in flashback by Sulien. The King's Name doesn't have that problem, as it takes place in only a matter of weeks. The previous book had a lot of ground to cover as Urdo worked to unite the land, but this one has only one campaign to worry about. It's very tightly told and Walton doesn't waste any time or verbiage in the telling. There is a lot of fighting, but the graphic descriptions of it are kept to a minimum (though there are some, so if you can't stand any, you may want to avoid this book). Walton's style is very sparse, but it gets the job done. There are times where the prose doesn't need to be wonderful, as long as the story is interesting. This is one of those times, as I found the story so fascinating that I didn't care that the prose wasn't lovely. I also really liked the fact that the book is told ostensibly as a history book, "from the writings of Sulien ap Gwien." There's even an introduction that "questions" whether or not the writing was really done by Sulien. I thought that was a nice touch.
Again, as in The King's Peace, I loved the story's take on religion. Many people are converting to "The White God" and "taking the pebble" to indicate this. There are, however, many people who are happy with the gods they already had and continue to follow them. All of the magic in the book is basically charms and prayers said in an attempt to reach the particular god the person prays to. There's a bit more of a hands-on feel to these religious systems, and while the White God is never shown, the reader gets the sense that He's a bit more hands-on as well. But the story never takes sides, and one of Urdo's main ideas for Tir Tanagiri is to allow the complete freedom of worship. I found that to be very refreshing, as Walton never tries to elevate one religion over another.
If you are a fantasy fan, I think you will like this book. It is better than the first, but you really should read the first one before this. It's not necessary, however, as the introduction referred to above also does a good job of summarizing what happened. Check it out. I think you'll like it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"King's Name" picks up the story five years after the ending of "King's Peace". It is a very good story, with a couple small but noticeable differences. 1. It is smoother than "King's Peace". Probably because Ms. Walton already had a feel for her world and for Sulien and didn't have to learn her way around them. 2. The slaps at the church are more subtle, put in milder, though no less certain terms.
The story is a little slow for a time (after a fast start), but for me the reading was worth every word.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
No need to summarize the plot, as other reviewers have more than done that. Walton has taken the Arthurian story and placed it in a different world - apparently as one possibility in an infinity of multiple possibilities, assuming I understand correctly something a half crazy oracle says toward the end.
Like another reviewer, I am just as happy not to see the Guenivere/Lancelot part of the legend retold. But Mordred/Morthu is there, with enhanced powers.
I had resisted reading these books because I thought that I knew enough about Arthur from other renditions of the legend. But there are enough side characters and ancillary plots to make this a truly different retelling. And Sulien ap Gwien is a strong and sympathetic character. It would be a pleasure to read something about her later life, though this doesn't look likely.
My only quibble is that the author introduces lots of tribal names and place names, but there is no map. Also, there are hundreds of named individuals, or at least it seems that way. Since a character can be named by first name (Sulien) or by father's name (ap Gwien), it becomes really confusing to keep track of the minor characters, especially since so many names begin with C or G. Here a chart grouping them at least by family, or tribe, or kingdom, or anything, would be nice.
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on February 23, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Walton's sequel to The King's Peace is in some ways a superior novel to its predecessor. The plot is more precise, focusing in on a specific event and time, while the storyline in the first unfolded over two decades. It presents a sufficient antagonist in Morthu, who, although he appeared in the first novel, had a minor role. It also touches on the unspoken subplot of the first novel, Sulien's affection for Urdo, therefore making it a more personal story. I think that Walton may have missed an opportunity by not exploring this premise futher. I infer that Sulien loved Urdo not just as a king but as a man, and he felt the same way, and if not for the trauma she experienced as a teen and his duty as a warlord then they may have had a life together. Imagine how hard that must be, to love someone but be unable to express it. I think that is why Emer and Conal are important, because they are also starcrossed lovers who take the plunge, unlike Sulien and Urdo, with mixed results. At any rate, The King's Name is entertaining, gritty fiction, featuring better action than the first novel and a more developed hero in Sulien. I wonder if both novels were originally one novel that the publishing house decided to split arbitrarily--it feels that way, at least to me. My minor gripe pertains to Sulien's interactions with the gods, which seem so ambiguous, fleeting, and frustrating to the reader. It must be a rule in fantasy: Make any scene with a god as confusing as possible.
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on May 13, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Combine the world of Kate Elliott with the quick pacing of Anne Bishop and you have the outstanding work of Jo Walton. This novel follows the King's Peace, but it stands on its own and is better, which is saying quite a bit, given that I'd put both on my top ten list. It grabs you in the space of exactly one sentence - literally. I challenge the following: Pick it up, read the first sentence and then put it down. Impossible. Then, minutes into it, the reader genuinely cares about the heroin, making this the kind of thing that has you going to work the next day with only two hours of sleep. Thanks Jo.
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on October 16, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The "King's Peace" series is a great alternative version of the Arthurian legends set in Post-Romano Britain (by another name). The King's Name is a beautifully written and wonderful tale continuing the saga.
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on January 3, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I read The King's Peace ages ago and was sorry to see the end of it. Silly me I never checked to see if there was more to follow. When I found this book I fairly LEAPT on it, and was grabbed, and dragged back into Sulien's world, by the eyeballs, from the opening paragraph. While it does get a bit verbose here and there, and kind of overly detailed now and again, it is still a MEAL for the mind. I thoroughly enjoyed how the two books began and how it ended and have NO regrets about setting aside a portion of my time, and brain, for the experience.
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on January 11, 2015
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Speaking as one who reads every Tale of King Arthur, I can honestly say this one went beyond the usual rendering to create something unique and beautiful.
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