- The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn (Kingdom of Grit #1).
- Tyler Whitesides.
- 784 pages.
- Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / High Fantasy / Traditional Fantasy / Fiction.
- My Rating: It’s OK Book Review.
Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief – a master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.
When a mysterious priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.
But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory – Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilisation.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Ardor Benn/Ard who in his own words is a ‘ruse artist extraordinaire‘ because why use a mundane and common term like a con artist or swindler.😂 Is tasked by the elderly Wayfarist (Wayfarism is one of the religions in the book) priest Isle Halavend to steal the royal regalia from the ruler of the Greater Chain (made-up of the islands, Talumon, Dronodan, Strind and Espar with the mountain and home of the dragons, Pekal located in the middle of the inter-island waters) King Pethredote.
The King’s regalia is made from the only remaining example of fertilised dragon eggshell still in existence, a component needed to make a very rare type of Grit (more on Grit later).
Ard accepts the job and along with Raekon Dorrel/Raek/the Short Fuse a detonation mixer (he mixes Grit compounds) and Ard’s partner they enlist the help of Quarrah Khai, a renowned thief to aid them and along with an assembled team so ensues a series of elaborate and intricate ruses full of outlandish exploits to steal the regalia and bring Isle Halavend’s plan to fruition.
I won’t go into the why’s about why Isle Halavend employs Ard to steal the regalia but suffice to say that the reasons have huge ramifications for all of the Greater Chain and the safety of its inhabitants.
The main resource in the Greater Chain is Grit. Grit can be primary or secondary and has a variety of different uses and types ranging from the mundane (Light and Heat Grit, which as the names suggest provide light and heat) to the more action-oriented types (Barrier, Drift and Void Grit which again, do what the name suggests) through to the rarest type of Grit, Visitant Grit which when used by someone worthy can call forth a Paladin Visitant (though the summons isn’t always successful) who can cause mass destruction.
Side note: there are more types of Grit than those few that I have mentioned and some can also be compounded or prolonged by being mixed together with either compounding or prolonging Grit.
Grit is made by using a specific base material (ranging from wood, metal and stone to human bones through to the fertilised dragon eggshell of the regalia that is indigestible and so, goes through the digestive system of a dragon and remains whole) which is fed to a dragon by a team of Harvesters in baited food to create a certain type of Grit. The dragon is traced (followed) and when the dung is passed (when the dragon goes potty and makes a boom boom) the dragon will then breathe fire on the excrement to harden it, creating Slagstone. The Slagstone is then transported to a factory where the base material is extracted from the Slagstone and processed into powder and so, yes, the Grit is subsequently derived from the powdered dragon poop.😂💩
I liked the idea behind Grit and how it is an integral resource for the society in the Greater Chain finding the concept of the Grit, its importance and its uses to be well incorporated by Whitesides helping to add some originality to the story.
The chapters of the story that take place in the Mooring, a religious building and that revolve around Isle Halavend and Lyndel, a Trothian Agrodite priestess are interesting. They often involve the pair researching and partaking in conversations as they are sequestered away in the Mooring cove that Halavend uses. These conversations allow us, the reader, to learn more about the two religions, Paladin Visitants, the history of the Greater Chain and also serve to help unveil the truth and motivation behind Halavend employing Ardor.
As a duo, Ard and Raek are fantastic with Ard being the loquacious and charming leader and Raek, the mathematical genius and muscle. The duo are completely different and act as the perfect foil for each other, they are like brothers and the strong bond between them and the banter and camaraderie that they share is a highlight of the book. Add in Quarrah as she attempts to integrate with the duo, learn and fulfil her role in the ruse and build a friendship (that is complicated by her feelings for Ard) with the pair and she is a welcome addition to the story. All in all the trio are well depicted by Whitesides.
For the secondary characters that compromised the initial team on Beripent when the team are trying to steal the regalia I really liked the duo of Elbrig Taut and Cinza Ortemion dubbed the crazies by Raek they are disguise managers (they create costumes, characters and identities as disguises) and the pair were really fun and well, crazy.😂 When the story moves to Pekal and the process of baiting the dragon, for the team members in this part of the story I liked the addition of Nemery Baggish. She’s knowledgeable on dragons and compared to the other criminal members of the Harvesting team she’s innocent and naive and there was just something endearing about her.
The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is a promising start to a new fantasy series and in Ard, Raek and Quarrah you have a trio of characters who you can become invested in. However, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that whilst admittedly, the book is enjoyable even straying into very enjoyable territory in places that at the same time, unfortunately, the book does on occasion drag also suffering from a lack of emotion and impact during both plot twists and (what should be) important storyline events as rather sadly, instead of having the impact and weight that they deserve and warrant the twists and events themselves are often underwhelming and fall flat.
In my opinion, a couple of small tweaks would greatly benefit the book namely a shorter page-length and tighter plotting on the part of Whitesides as ultimately, The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn felt overly long for the story that Whitesides was telling and suffers under the weight of its 700+ page count.
Ard is a charismatic lead, Grit an intriguing and well-implemented idea and so, even with my issues, I’d certainly consider reading future books in the series as there is promise and potential to be found within the pages of Whitesides debut adult fantasy work.
Purchase The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn (Kingdom of Grit #1).
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