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The Secret Kings (Soul Cycle) (Volume 3) Paperback – December 19, 2016
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About the Author
Brian Niemeier is a best selling science fiction author and a John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer finalist. His second book, Souldancer, won the first ever Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel. He chose to pursue a writing career despite formal training in history and theology. His journey toward publication began at the behest of his long-suffering gaming group, who tactfully pointed out that he seemed to enjoy telling stories more than planning and adjudicating games.
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Top customer reviews
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This book mostly follows the trials and travails of Teg Cross, picking up many years after he exited stage left at the end of the first book in the Soul Cycle, and he really does make the book... to the slightly unfortunate point that the chapters not following Teg are not as fun by comparison.
I do have some gripes about how much deus ex machina played a role in this story, but I suppose that's something of a given when a fairly large chunk of your cast are gods and demons. Maybe that's also me having expected this to be the climactic finale to a trilogy. It does have a pretty crazy climax, and I think Mr. Niemeier builds up to it well, though.
Anyway, a lot of fun overall and a book I'd recommend.
The Secret Kings picks up right after Shaiel is set free to realize his ambitions of putting the entire cosmos under his boot. I remember a review saying that the entire novel plays out like a gigantic boss battle, and that is absolutely true. Our heroes spend the entire novel trying, against overwhelming odds, to defeat the god of the Void.
The plot moves along quickly and never really stops to smell the roses, which I really like. Something is always happening to push the plot forward. As a result, the book is very hard to put down. Best of all, various plot threads from the previous two novels are interwoven throughout The Secret Kings. As such, paying attention to small details throughout the previous novels makes for some satisfying payoffs.
Characters from both Nethereal and Souldancer make a return, including everyone’s favorite mercenary, Teg Cross. Nakvin, Elena join Astlin and Xander along with additional characters to fill out the cast. After reading through the first three books, it’s awesome watching the author improve his characterization. Astlin, Teg, Elena and Nakvin have surprising depth to them and really make you care for them. They have their own personalities and quirks and motivations, and it makes for some great reading watching these characters interact with each other as they cooperate against Shaiel.
In addition to the protagonists, the villains are awesome. Shaiel, in particular, is given awesome god-like dialogue. You can practically feel the cold ooze off each line of dialogue. A lesser writer would likely have ruined Shaiel’s character and turned him into something cheesy and laughable. In Niemeier’s hands, Shaiel is truly menacing in a way that few evil god-characters have been. The Anomian creatures are genuinely creepy Lovecraftian monsters that do not feel like Cthulhu pastiches. Other great villains abound, but these two really stood out to me.
I will say one thing as a precaution to other potential readers. This series is deep and does require a bit of careful reading. Simply zipping through these novels in an afternoon is out of the question. I attempted to zip through this one and found myself scratching my head a few times. Luckily, I was able to search through the Kindle version for key words, and it helped clear things up. I probably could have saved myself the confusion had I paid more attention. The series demands attention and reflection.
I’ve recently come across an interview with the author over at the Castalia House blog. After hearing what the author was trying to do with the series, I’ve come away with much deeper appreciation. I practically never reread books, much less series. But after this interview, I really want to go back and reread everything and mine the depths of this series because I plan on sharing this series with my children when they are old enough to read.
I will say that The Secret Kings was a blast to read. Brian Niemeier has created a phenomenal series full of cosmic struggles, divine warfare and otherworldly creatures. I enjoyed every minute of it. Do yourself a favor and read this unique series.
5 out of 5 stars
A fun read. Check it out.
The climactic scenes are drawn in a way that defies mere cinematic imagination – and that’s a compliment, after having read stories over the years that read more like outlines for movies that actual novels. Here, Niemeier uses a device favored by Dante: paint the picture in broad strokes while having the viewpoint character recognize that what he sees is fundamental incomprehensibility. You are imagining the unimaginable. It works – the reader sees something partial, but gets the full emotional import.
Lots and lots of characters and details. If your standard for complicated storytelling is, say, Vance, this may be a challenging read. If Tolstoy, OK, that’s better, at least for keeping vast numbers of characters straight. But ideally, you’re a reader who has played role playing games all your life, and so will take active delight in Neimeier’s lovingly and well-thought-out details and be undaunted by how many there are.
That reader is not me – I'm an old guy - and I still enjoyed the book, and plan to start The Ophian Rising soon. So check the Soul Cycle out!
Most recent customer reviews
As great as the first two novels were, I was not certain how the narrative threads from each novel would be woven together.Read more