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City of Rogues: Book I of The Kobalos Trilogy (The Ursian Chronicles) Paperback – February 15, 2013
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About the Author
Originally from Kentucky, Ty Johnston is a former newspaper journalist who now writes about swords, sorcery and things that go bump in the night. He lives in the South with a beagle and great memories of his late wife. Blog: tyjohnston.blogspot.com
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The novel started strong. There are a few jarring editorial problems. But the beginning moves well and draws the reader in.
The middle introduces some new characters and foreshadows book 2. It also becomes a tad predictable. There is no doubt who the healer "really is" from almost the moment when he becomes more than a secondary character.
The end just falls on its face and, literally, rolls in the mud. The whole story line has lead up to a scene of final confrontation AND the winner walks away without confirming the kill. "I think he's dead". Really? He's won. There's a few NPC's hanging around who he has been stomping with ease and regularity and he walks away?
Next logic flaw. The Ring Wraiths (opphhs, Ring Demons) show up charged by their cruel and evil master to GET THE RING. And some guy is so glib as to talk them into coming back in a few days and he'll find it for them. And we don't even get to see the scene where he does this, just hear that he did it after the fact. That must have been some amazing dog and pony show and we missed it.
The ending is confused, incomplete, rambling, illogical, and little more than a lead in to book 2. And because of that I don't care enough to buy or read book 2.
The setting is a typical fantasy city, and like Conan and other sword and sorcery tales to which it is obviously inspired by, focuses mainly on the lower end of the social ladder, amongst the thieves, gangsters and others who fight out their days in the narrow alleyways at sword pint and edge of spell. Though the book description lists Kron Darkbow as the main character, an anti-hero bent of revenge (are there any other kinds?) the story spends even more time on its various other characters - a former mercenary turned political boss/gangster, a healer mage trying to escape his past, a former soldier and guard from a prison colony trying to make a fresh start in life, a world-weary city guards captain...and so on.
The central focus of the story is about the character Kron and his quest for revenge against Belgas, the preeminent gangster in the city, and how it draws in, affects and in some cases ends the lives of the characters. when it is over, a new quest has begun to liberate a far-off lands in the north from its insane wizard ruler.
The good points - well-rounded characters and a plot that, while no different from a hundred other fantasy novels, was well-written enough to hold my attention. I've always enjoyed fantasy tales with a gritty edge, and this had enough to make it a fun read.
The bad points - the setting isn't adequately explained. Various other realms are mentioned, but with little explanation as to how they relate to the characters in question. Religion plays a strong role in this society and the characters actions, but almost no background material is provided, causing some confusion. Also, the ending of the book comes across as awkward. Having defeated the bid baddie, Kron and two of the characters suddenly decide to hare off to another land to overthrow its king, almost out of the blue. it felt shoehorned in, giving the book the feeling of being almost an extended prologue.
Still, a decent read, worth three stars at least, worth an afternoons enjoyment.
I wanted to give the book 4 stars because it was a decent read, but I wanted to give the ending 2 stars because it completely jumped the rails so it gets 3 from me.
Unfortunately, this was only one of the really amazing potential plot twists that just failed to materialize - hinted at and then just dropped. If the author had lavished as much attention on the middle and end of the book as he clearly did on the beginning, City of Rogues could have been so much more than just another fantasy novel with familiar tropes, stock characters, and modest world-building.
It's not a bad story, mind you, but I can't help but feel it could have been so much better if the author had made some bolder plot choices.