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Kingdom Asunder (The Bloody Crown Trilogy Book 1) Kindle Edition
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Although I have read and enjoyed White’s previous works I must say that this is probably the best one he has written yet. The book itself gets off to a running start throwing the reader straight into the action, giving a setup that is simple and straightforward and works all the better for it.
For years the Kingdom of Penmere has been ruled by the Regent John Esden in the stead of his nephew William, too young to take the throne. But as the time of his ascent approaches Esden apparently accuses his nephew of being a bastard, unfit to rule and claims the crown for his family.
At once we have the main thrust of the tale, civil war over the throne of a kingdom and this is indeed a line that runs from beginning to end of the novel. There is a lot more to it though, and this is where White has excelled himself. Rather than allowing space and wordage of exposition he allows the story to unfold in an organic and natural way. His style is sparse but gives the reader all that they need, while allowing the story to travel at an exciting pace, adding colour and detail as needed.
Each new facet is added as it is required and this works to the advantage of the story. There is no feeling that you are being hit with a mass of information, in fact it is done so well that you barely notice, only later realising that you know quite a bit about (for example) the Magistri, what they can do, how powerful they are and the laws that bind them.
This is something that works with several different groups that appear in the pages, and for the different components that make up the armies. In fact it is not until the end of the novel that you realise just how much depth and world building has gone into the work, and this subtle indoctrination into the world is a masterstroke in itself.
There are multiple viewpoints in the story, and all the characters are well defined and strong, with their own voices. Almost inevitably there are some that are stronger than other, but importantly there are no weak ones.
There are two major battle sequences, the first of which steals the show, a truly gritty, enthralling combative piece that stands out, for me, as being the best part of an overall exceptional novel.
But for me, I think the best part of the story, and the defining thing that manages to set it apart from many of its contemporaries (at least for me) is there is no clear cut good or bad. Instead we get to see that a civil war is not good for the people of the country in which the war is taking place, that it is they that suffer along with the soldiers who fight the battles.
Of the two leaders who issue the call to arms there is a strong case for each of them in doing what they do. There is an argument to be made that both John and William and doing what they feel is best for the realm they would rule: John feeling that it would not be fitting to have a bastard on the throne; while William sees his Uncle as a traitor unable to let go of power now that the time has come.
Add to this the plethora of non-human creatures and constructs and you have a novel that shines.
Finally, it needs to be said that there are a few tantalising, almost throwaway scenes that could well be important in either of the later books. A dragon on the epic scale, and on the other the results to both himself and the war as a knight finds him trapped by loyalty and honour comes to a compromise that may have massive results.
The plot is fairly straightforward; Denland's regent has declared the king-to-be illegitimate for reasons of parenthood and now the kingdom's nobles, knights, etc. are taking sides. What follows is the political and military fallout of these decisions.
Despite what the Amazon page says, Karena is not the protagonist of this story. Rather, it has an ensemble cast with many characters the view point. I count at seven points with their own character arcs and subplots. Mr.White is one of the few authors that I've seen make this work. Seriously, I can count them on one hand. This is because the viewpoints overlap, they are consistent, they tell different facets of the same, immediate, story, and finally, because the narrative truly focuses on two or three of the viewpoints. One of them is Karena. The analogy I use in this case is that of threads woven together to create rope.
This is the first book in a three book series and so it is split between the series conflict, the civil war, and this book's conflict. This can be loosely described as setting the conditions of the former and the gathering of allies by both sides. Although there is plenty of action, the two sides haven't officially clashed yet. It is safe to say that this book's conflict has indeed been resolved, though the war goes on.
Related plot threads include a Hykir invasion, a shift in the balance of power between mages and mage killers (called "Hollow Knights", who are, by the way, awesome), and the experiences of Stephen Penmere (Karena's cousin) alongside the war.
One might think that it is ridiculous to start a civil war over the king being a bastard, and particularly in this case, where the usurper has been regent for ten years and practically raised the young man he's currently rebelling against but it is nuanced. There are certainly some in this rebellion for personal gain and couldn't care less about William's parentage. Then there are others who apparently take it seriously. I've read this sort of thing truly was important for people in previous time periods, and likely now as well.
Karena has a vivid Establishing Character Moment that also sets the tone for the series. She is an Iron Lady; confident, ambitious and ruthless. I quickly started thinking "this is going to be Game of Thrones level dark and bloody".
She's clever and can lead a group of commandos to infiltrate a fortress if necessary. She is an anti-hero of the pragmatic or unscrupulous variety and would easily qualify as a villain if not for the fact that her opponent started a civil war over the alleged illegitimacy of her younger brother.
There's also a running thread about her chaffing at the Heir Club for Men trope. This whole plot could have been avoided if she had been male or women could be the Denland monarch and she has to frame her actions as working on her brother's behalf in order to maximize her influence and it is still limited.
She has a couple Pet the Dogs moments, such as giving Emma a dress and the concern she shows for her brother, but, given the rest of her personality, it is hard not to see some selfish angle to these actions.
Personally, I like Stephen the most of all the characters. Part of it is being a Token Good Teammate who is largely outside the war and politics. He's going along with his cousins to write a chronicle of their war. His chapters are such a remarkable contrast in view to the others that they become foils to enrich the narrative. Also, his Puppy Love with Emma is cute. It also spurs dramatic character development.
Villain-wise I don't see much. John Esden has a big scene at the start where he announces his intentions to his captive, Sophie. His appearance is that of Affably Evil, confidence and Well-Intentioned Extremist. She basically says that he's full of shit and I am of the mind to agree. His son, Stuart, has a smaller but wider role. I don't get much from him either. Personally, I think the Hykir make a bigger presence as a villains despite being an Outside Context Problem. However, I don't think this harms the narrative over all because there are other antagonists and other problems for the protagonists (I hesitate to use the word "hero") to struggle against.
The book looks good. I didn't see much of the spelling or grammar errors.
Trickster Eric novels gives "Kingdom Asunder" an A+
The characters are developed enough to give a basic understanding of them and it’s often very easy to identify with the characters, even the wicked ones. i had no trouble whatsoever visualizing interactions between characters and understanding why they behave as they do. However, I also enjoy that Karena is a bit of a wildcard and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
The story itself is brilliantly entertaining. There’s a lot going on at once, but the information is organized in a way that makes it relatively easy to follow. It did sort of remind me of the A Song of Ice and Fire Series but without the incest (thank goodness). I was actually a bit upset when I finished it because I didn’t realize I was so close to the end. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the next volume in the trilogy.
I received an advance copy of this book from the author in exchange for this honest review.
For this review and more, please visit my blog at vicariousbookworm.wordpress.com
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Author: Thaddeus White
Publisher and Copyright: Thaddeus White
Price: $4.Read more