I received a review copy as part of this blog tour. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy (Political) Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 3.5 stars Series: Yes - first book
Mareth is a bard, a serial under achiever, a professional drunk, and general disappointment to his father. Despite this, Mareth has one thing going for him. He can smell opportunity. The King is dead and an election for the new Lord Protector has been called. If he plays his cards right, if he can sing a story that will put the right person in that chair, his future fame and drinking money is all but assured. But, alas, it turns out Mareth has a conscience after all.
Neenahwi is the daughter to Jyuth, the ancient wizard who founded the Kingdom of Edland and she is not happy. It’s not just that her father was the one who killed the King, or that he didn’t tell her about his plans. She’s not happy because her father is leaving, slinking off into retirement and now she has to clean up his mess.
Alana is a servant at the palace and the unfortunate soul to draw the short straw to attend to Jyuth. Alana knows that intelligence and curiosity aren’t valued in someone of her station, but sometimes she can’t help herself and so finds herself drawn into the Wizard’s schemes, and worst of all, coming up with her own plans.
Chance brings this unlikely band together to battle through civil unrest, assassinations, political machinations, pirates and monsters, all for a common cause that they know, deep down, has no chance of succeeding – bringing hope to the people of Kingshold.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
KINGSHOLD is a solid start to a series, a political fantasy that balances intrigue and action. As well as completing a full story arc so that it feels like a satisfying standalone, there is enough information teased out to set up a series.
This isn’t the first time I’ve picked this book up. I really wanted to be done with all my review copies in December, so tried to read it on New Year’s Eve. Turns out trying to cram 4 books into one day, particularly a day where there’s a lot of hosting preparations, is a bad idea. I’d already read 32 books that month, and could not cram another into my brain so I put it down and waited until I was less bookish-ly exhausted.
I’m really glad I did give it a second chance. This is an incredibly rare fantasy book, at least I’ve never read another book about elections set in a medieval world. I particularly loved how it wasn’t simply a free-for-all elections where anyone could vote as long as they registered citizens. Instead, there are conditions to select “household leaders of good standing” – aka a hefty deposit to stop the “scum” in the poorer parts of the city from voting.
Why did I love this? It’s so realistic. Look how long it took our countries to get to (basically) free-for-all-citizen elections! This is a wizard deposing a king and deciding there would be a election. It would have been very unrealistic if everyone was suddenly given a vote – and perhaps the best choices wouldn’t have been made. Not to mention this condition leads to some of the most intriguing political shenanigans – how to get votes if most people don’t have the funds to vote, and the nobles who do are only going to look out for themselves?
However, Wolliscroft manages to weave plenty of action around the intrigue, through the use of more martial POV characters. It’s a good balance, which makes the book’s appeal broader.
It takes a while for the five POVs to link up (there is also Motega and Hoskins, though Hoskins never really joins up). That lack of connectivity is why I’d struggled initially – I was too tired to follow them all. However, once more refreshed, it was really easy to keep everything straight and follow the different POVs. Even though Hoskin isn’t involved in the main story line, through him we get a sense of the behind the scenes machinations at the palace as he tries to hold the city together in the lead up to the election.
KINGSHOLD is also a slower book, with more exposition and reported action than commonly seen in fantasy. This does pull the pace back as characters tell others about an encounter, so the emotions of the argument is missing in their retelling. It works well for a book that’s more about everyone scrambling for power.
Overall, it’s a great start to a series, full of intrigue and deft characterisation, though not one to read if you’re tired! I’m interested to see what happens next.