Written by: Rowena Cory Daniells
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Pages: 640 (Mass Market Paperback)
Series: Book One of Three
Disclaimer: free from author
The premise: ganked from the author's website: Cloaked in silent winter snow the Kingdom of Rolencia sleeps as rumours spread of new Affinity Seeps, places where untamed power wells up. Meanwhile, King Rolen plans his jubilee unaware of the growing threat to those he loves.
By royal decree, all those afflicted with Affinity must serve the Abbey or face death. Sent to the Abbey because of his innate Affinity, the King’s youngest son, Fyn, trains to become a warrior monk. Unfortunately, he’s a gentle dreamer and the other acolytes bully him. The only way he can escape them is to serve the Abbey Mystic, but his Affinity is weak.
Fiercely loyal, thirteen year-old Piro is horrified to discover she is also cursed with unwanted Affinity. It broke their mother’s heart to send Fyn away, so she hides her affliction. But, when Fyn confesses his troubles, Piro risks exposure to help him.
Even though Byren Kingson is only seven minutes younger than his twin, Lence, who is the king's heir, Byren has never hungered for the Rolencian throne. When a Seer predicts that he will kill Lence, he laughs. But Lence Kingsheir sees Byren’s growing popularity and resents it. Enduring loyalty could be Byren’s greatest failing.
Glad It Was Free: for a 640 page book, it's a remarkably fast read. Heroic and likable and sympathetic characters really help speed the story along, so when things go wrong or right, you really feel for them. That said, these characters are so GOOD that I really don't want to see what's in store. I kind of want to herd them into a box and say, "They all lived happily ever after!" and be done with it. No more adventures, no more torture, because frankly, I think these characters are going to go through far worse before things get better. Normally, I don't have a problem with this, but for some reason, I can't cross that sadist line with these characters. Maybe it's because they're mostly such innocent victims that I can't stomach it? Maybe. But they're heroic and worth admiring, and of the three POV characters, I think our heroine Piro was my favorite, if only because she had the most interesting story but MOSTLY because she had the most growth. I feel too that Daniells has certainly been influenced by George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, but in a good way: hey, this place is stuck (temporary or permanent, I don't know) in WINTER, and there's even a minor character named Winterfall, which makes me think of Winterfell, which basically gets Martin stuck in my brain. That aside, there's politically maneuvering (which I can't say I care for, but that's me), interesting magic, and again, really likable characters and a pace that goes by remarkably fast. What's better for you epic fantasy readers is that this trilogy is supposed to be complete by September, which means you won't be waiting years and years and years between installments. I'm not sure if I'll be continuing, because while the book is enjoyable, I'm not sure I can see these characters tortured any more. But maybe if my TBR pile every looks manageable, I could give the rest of the trilogy a shot. After all, I like most of the POV characters, the world-building is fascinating (setting and magic, yay!), and I am curious to see what comes of the strained friendship of Byren (the man who might end up king) and Orrie, the man who's in love with his best friend. While the book doesn't FOCUS on this relationship, it is something of an inciting incident, and I wonder: will Orrie become an enemy, or a lover, or will he remain a true friend to the bitter end?
It may be worth reading onward to find out. But I cringe in advance for these poor, poor characters . . . .
Review style: There's a lot I'd like to discuss here: the world-building and what Daniells makes of a land in the throes of winter (there's some really cool things here), the use of a gay character who--while not the hero, is pretty close to the hero--and what I think Daniells did both right and wrong in the portrayal; overall characterization and how it affected my enjoyment of the book, and then some general stylistic things that only I'd be anal enough to notice and be bothered by. I'll discuss my concern for the trilogy as a whole and whether or not I'll continue reading. Spoilers, yes, so unless you've read the book or just don't care about spoilers, don't read the full review linked below. Otherwise, click away, and you'll be taken to my LJ for the rest. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome. :)
REVIEW: Rowena Cory Daniells's THE KING'S BASTARD
Book club selections @ calico_reaction. Hop on over! We'd love to have you!
July: Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff
August: Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
September: So Long Been Dreaming edited by Nalo Hopkinson