Book Review: THE BLACK COAST by Mike Brooks

Title in black on a blurred blue background
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book

Synopsis:

Book cover for THE BLACK COAST: title in black on a blue landscape with an orangey outcroping of rock

When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them, for they know who is coming: for generations, Black Keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Iwernia. Saddling their war dragons, the Naridans rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all.

Driven from their own homeland by the rise of a daemonic despot who prophesies the end of the world, they have come in search of a new home. Meanwhile the wider continent of Narida is lurching toward war. Black Keep is about to be caught in the cross-fire of the coming war for the world – if only its new mismatched society can survive.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

What drew me to THE BLACK COAST was the promise of a book that explores what happens when cultures who have been at war are forced to find a way to live together.

It’s such a fun premise, exploring clashing cultures and historic wrongs – and whether those can be overcome. There were constant frictions that threatened to set it all alight, from people and cultural values on both sides, and from external forces (i.e. someone else coming to attack.) It was a melting pot of tension just waiting to bubble over, though I was rooting for them to ultimately win and unite.

I loved the way language was used to show differing cultures. There was an essay released as part of the promo about this, which I found, and was one of the key factors in me picking this up. The Naridians in particular were very interesting, not having a concept of self/I/me. Instead, they referred to themselves (in speech, not in prose) in relation to the person they were talking to. “Your servant” if subservient, “this man”/”this lord” depending on status – and so on. It did take a few chapters to get used to the way of speaking, but it was such a fun way of showing a core idea about the society.

There are a LOT of POVs in this book. Most narrate throughout, but a few only had one chapter – and so felt rather pointless, like the scrap of information contained within could have easily been conveyed by another character rather than adding yet another POV into the mix. There were also a few POVs who had nothing at all to do with the main storyline around Black Keep, and so I found rather uninteresting as they did not (at any point at all, not even the end, unlike one other) intersect.

These were the Naridian Princess and a street thief on a city half a world away from Black Keep. It took a while for these two storylines to very briefly brush, but no more. They felt disconnected, unmoored, and thus extraneous to the plot. The thief in particular was very dull and had basically no impact on anything.

I know it’s my personal preference to have connected POVs, but this just reinforced why I have that preference. These POVs could have been removed from the story, and nothing change overall at Black Keep. It’s a big book, and felt it at time when these characters came up. Sure, the title of the next book implies they’ll become important (THE SPLINTER KING, referring to a non-POV character that binds the two POVs), but I want more of a reason than that to spends pages reading about them (I ended up skimming them.)

Despite this, I will be reading the sequel when it comes out later this year.


Read my reviews of other books by Mike Brooks:

The God-King Chronicles (this series):

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