- The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons #1).
- Jenn Lyons.
- 560 pages.
- Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
When destiny calls, there’s no fighting back . . .
As a bard’s apprentice, Kihrin grew up with tales of legendary deeds. He also steals, desperate to buy a way out of Quur’s slums. Then he raids the wrong house, he’s marked by a demon and life will never be the same again.
Kihrin’s plight brings him to the attention of royalty, who claim him as the lost son of their immoral prince. But far from living the dream, Kihrin’s at the mercy of his new family’s ruthless ambitions. However, escaping his jewelled cage just makes matters worse. Kihrin is horrified to learn he’s at the centre of an ancient prophecy. And every side – from gods and demons to dragons and mages – want him as their pawn. Those old stories lied about many things too, especially the myth that the hero always wins.
Then again, maybe Kihrin isn’t the hero, for he’s not destined to save the empire. He’s destined to destroy it.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
There’s something to be said for losing yourself in a book. Forgetting about the outside world and the stresses and strains of life, letting it all take a backseat and allowing it to fade into the background as you consume page after page and The Ruin of Kings is one such book. It is both a sprawling epic, grand in scope and scale and also a deeply personal tale for Kihrin.
I’ll not get down and dirty with the story nor delve into the nitty-gritty aspects of what occurs in my review. Firstly, it’s not my style and secondly, Kihrin’s story is a story that you want to discover for yourself. It is a rags to riches tale with Kihrin going from being a blind musician’s apprentice by day and a street thief by night to a prince and beyond. Kihrin’s story that takes place across many miles and many years as you follow him through the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs, the life-changing events, the shocking revelations and the small moments of growth and with every page turned more is revealed about Kihrin, his destiny and the world.
The Ruin of Kings is told in an interesting way. The story is non-linear and starts with Kihrin as a prisoner, in a jail cell, awaiting his fate and with Talon, his jailer, guarding him. What follows is a conversation between the pair where (for the most part) they alternate the chapters telling Kihrin’s story. Kihrin narrates his chapters in the first-person perspective giving it a more personal feel to him and Talon, her parts in the third-person perspective filling in the gaps left by Kihrin and fleshing out the tale with accounts from various other characters. This exchange is compiled together and transcribed into the story that we read by Thurvishar D’Lorus who also adds his own footnotes to the proceedings. This is the first part of the book and it details the events that lead up to Kihrin finding himself locked away, rotting in a cold cell.
The second part of the book brings things full circle and we go back to the start of the book with Kihrin in the jail cell and it takes the story from there, carrying on the story in the present from that point forward and building to the climax of the book.
As the main character, Kihrin is likeable. He feels fully-fleshed out and as the story progresses so too does Kihrin and as he ages and endures tragic events we get to see him grow and mature into a more rounded and thoughtful individual. According to the blurb, it is implied that he is supposed to be the villain of the tale, I feel this is a slight misstep as I always rooted for Kihrin and thought of him as the ‘good guy‘ and the hero of the tale.
Talon is a mimic, a shape-shifter, a spy, an assassin and a demon who collects peoples memories and who is able to impersonate the person thanks to her ability to alter her appearance. Due to other people’s memories, Talon has always been around Kihrin, watching him and seeing the events of his life unfold through the memories that she has consumed. That is how she is able to fill in the gaps in Kihrin’s tale, she has the memories of those who were also there, who lived through and saw the same events, who witnessed Kihrin, his actions and ultimately, the consequences of those actions.
As well as Kihrin there are many other characters in The Ruin of Kings. The cast can be slightly confusing at times due to the amount, especially when keeping track of who is who but they are well-developed by Lyons and all have a role to play in the story being told. Along with Kihrin and Talon, my favourite characters were Darzin D’Mon, Teraeth, Khaemezra, Tyentso and the Old Man.
There is a lot going on in The Ruin of Kings and you will find lots of motivations at play, hidden machinations and double-crosses by characters and the water is often murky as to who is ‘good‘ or ‘bad‘ and what is ‘right‘ and ‘wrong‘. The characters have to make some tough choices and they are firmly in the shades of grey type for moral ambiguity. The question is often asked of what is the right or the wrong course of action to take and the actions themselves have consequences for all involved.
The Ruin of Kings features epic world-building and Lyons has crafted a world that is full of history and lore. Much of which we only get to glimpse the surface of but it is utterly fascinating and leaves you wanting to dig deeper and find out more. The locales in which the story takes place are well-realised and the world includes zombies, krakens, snake men (sadly none with the name of King Hiss), various cults, assassins, gods, goddesses, dead gods, magic, magical artefacts, mages, witches, demons, dragons, ghosts, the Morgage (who are a savage race with poisonous barbs adorning their arms) and various types of Vane who are an immortal race.
The pacing is decent throughout The Ruin of Kings, it is never fly by your pants fast paced but the story does generally move along nicely. However, the book does lag at times, namely in the middle section but it is nothing that is a deal breaker and it is never to the extent that it warrants any dissatisfaction with the reader. I will say that even when the pacing does slow there’s always enough on display to keep you invested in the characters, their stories and the rich world that Lyons has created.
I mentioned that there are footnotes in the book near the start of my review and I feel that I should say that they are never overly obtrusive and neither do they detract from the story. They serve to add history and lore giving the reader little snippets of extra information, colouring the landscape and helping to form a fuller picture of the world and Thurvishar himself is when required self-deprecating and amusing in a droll way.
The Ruin of Kings is absolutely stunning, it is epic fantasy at its finest, like a tapestry it is hugely complex, intricately woven and lavishly detailed. It is a highly skilled debut from Lyons and it is a book that you need to concentrate on reading. If you do give The Ruin of Kings the attention that it requires (and fully deserves) then you are richly rewarded with what amounts to a highly immersive reading experience.
Purchase The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons #1).
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