Jun 1, 2011

Book Review–Kings of the North by Elizabeth Moon

kingsKings of the North is the second book in Paladin’s legacy series. The first is Oath of Fealty.

I haven’t read any Elizabeth Moon.  But after finishing Kings of the North , I have a feeling that will change.  Now, astute readers will have picked up that I am reviewing a book in the middle of a series, without having read the book that precedes it.

As with The Wise’s Man’s Fear, this was not too much of a problem, though I did struggle a bit more to get my head around the characters and subplots-this despite having a list of Dramatis Personae.

The Story

In some respects Kings of  the North is a typical second book, there’s an expectation that you will have read the first, and be aware of the story arcs and larger narrative landscape.  Kings of the North  progresses those arcs further as well as providing a nice resolution for some of the plots contained within.  It’s a tale of an adventuring military cohort, whose members have split and ‘moved up the ranks’, so to speak.

Kieri is now the Half Elven King of Lyonya – co ruler with his rather aloof elven grandmother. He struggles as he tries to get humans and elves to work together and is constantly frustrated by his grandmother who only seems to pop out of the elven realm when she must.  In addition to this, everyone seems to be pressuring him to marry, his grandmother pushing suitable elvish wives his way, foreign human kings throwing their reluctant daughters at him and despite his best efforts, war appears to be brewing with the Pargunese.

Dorrin Verrakai is now Duke and Constable of the Tsaian Kingdom after having prevented an attack on the King by her evil magelord relatives(of the kind that like possessing the bodies of children).  She is tasked with ridding her estates of the evil of her ancestors, repairing the damage of years of evil over-lordship and advising her king on on the state of the Tsaia’s military forces.

Janderlir Arcolin – recently promoted Lord of the Northern Marches leads Fox Company (Kieri’s former mercenary cohort) in his last mission- pursuing bandits in the Southern Kingdom of Aarenis before he must take up his title in the North.  Though the men they track seem less a group of Bandits, than an experienced and well supplied group of insurgents.

War is brewing everywhere.

A familiar feeling

Once past the initial workings out of “Who is who?” and “Where in the hell is Cortes Vonja?” I settled into a gripping read, in what felt like comfortable campaigning boots.  Moon writes a tale that reminds me of youthful days spent reading the Dragonlance Chronicles and playing Dungeons and Dragons.

It’s good military fantasy; perhaps informed by her own military service.  I enjoyed too, the play with gender.  Dorrin has the title of Lord, the Pargunese aghast at women being allowed to serve as frontline troops(believing them instead to be whores for the soldiers they train with). There’s an interesting mix of realism (in the sense of cultural misunderstandings causing conflict) and your standard fantasy tropes.

If I was disappointed with anything it was with the speed with which the one romantic relationship  in the book was handled, it felt to some extent as if it had come out of nowhere.  Not having read the first book I am not sure if it may have been foreshadowed there, but it certainly felt as though the relationship was more plot device.

Final Thoughts

Good fantasy reading with enough well thought out military fantasy to please those that read closer to the ‘historical realism’ end of the spectrum, and enough magic and wonder for those that like high fantasy.

This book was provided to free of cost by the publisher.

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