When offered a review copy of the sequel to a book that you loved, one can never say no, right? No exception here. I really liked Empire of the Dead! Necro-Sumerian Ocean’s Eleven fantasy is never a bad thing. Never ever!
So, as is now obvious here, I received a free copy of this book from the author, and in exchange I have honestly reviewed it. 😀
Against all odds, Jarek and Acharsis have succeeded in their mission, and now they reap the whirlwind. With countless assassins and guards on their heels, they have but one hope: make common cause with their ancient enemy, the empire of Magan, before Irella can launch her invasion.
But that hope lies hundreds upon hundreds of miles away, over the Great Chasm, across the eternal Golden Steppe, and past the Demon’s Teeth. And even if they survive the journey, they’ll then have to face their most lethal challenge yet: to convince the immortal lamassu gods of Magan to rise and face the greatest army of the dead ever marshaled.
Unpredictable, fast paced, and packed with memorable characters, Trial of Kings is a gripping tale of revenge replete with demons, ancient magic and a high stakes heist.
“Great,” said Anarra. “You’re drunk.”
“Am I?” Acharsis peered into his cup. “I’ll admit, I have had some drinks, so I have drunk, and am perhaps in the process of drunking. But do I not deserve a little respite after pulling off this – what did you call it, Sisu? Miracle?”
This book begins right where The Empire of the Dead left off. Right in the middle of the action, as it happens. This is both good (because action is awesome) and bad (for me – because it’s been a year since I read Empire and I forgot many of the details of the ending of it). So, I spent the first 3 or 4 chapters of this book frantically digging details of the end of the book previous from my long-term memory. Don’t worry though, ladies and gents, most of it ended up all coming back to me within the first few chapters just by being reacquainted with the characters.
Acharsis, Jarek, and the gang have escaped from Rekkidu with Elu, Anarra’s son who had been kidnapped in The Empire of the Dead, in tow. They flee across the Golden Steppe (cue shenanigans) to the country of Magan (which seems to me to be Egypt-ish, to Rekkidu’s Sumeria-ish), to warn them of an impending attack from a giant army of the risen dead. When they get there, there is a bit of a… kerfuffle. Turns out that a trophy that Elu picked up along the way is actually the property of the prince of Magan… the one who has been missing for 13 years. Ruh-roh. But, no worries! Where there is Acharsis, there are crazy-ass plans, and so crazy-ass plan he will! Hijinx of kingly trial proportions ensue!
Man, I love Acharsis. He’s such a good character to read about. He’s snarky, quite hilarious at times, and comes up with absolutely ridiculous plans that totally work because he is who he is. He’s one of those characters that’s awesome to read about because you have to see what he’s going to do next, but you’re pretty sure it’ll be funny. A wild planner who flies by the seat of his pants most of the time, and maybe shit just works out for him because he’s lucky. Maybe it’s because he’s charming. Maybe it’s because he’s a demigod, and one of the charming persuasion. The why doesn’t particularly matter to me. All I know is that I want him to win all the things by being drunk, charming, and/or ridiculous, because Acharsis for the win.
This book was so hard to put down once I picked it up, because it’s a great adventure from start to finish. There aren’t really any boring parts, there’s a bit of romance (which I liked a lot, as I generally tend to), there is action, there is intrigue, and there are gods and monsters. All things that I enjoy quite a lot! There is also quite some wicked vocabulary in this book and it is amazingly well used. When an author can sneak a word in that I legitimately have to look up in the dictionary, but uses it in a way that doesn’t seem at all out of place, that’s a win for me. I like to be challenged vocabularily. See? That’s a word that I just made up. BOOM! *mic drop*
*Ahem* Anyway, It’s not overly long, so it’s a quick and exciting read. It doesn’t focus on the boring parts of journeying, and instead goes from place to place or plot point to plot point without the boring ‘they journeyed for 4 days’ or ‘they journeyed, and then camped, and then journeyed, and then camped’ bits. There are times when I don’t love books that do this skipping along thing, as there are times where it just doesn’t work, but I think that it worked well here. We didn’t lose story or character building in the skipping. I liked this volume just as much as the first book in the series. Where I worried a bit in the beginning that I’d forgotten something important from the previous book, those fears were assuaged well before even the middle of this one. But, this is a series that I will absolutely re-read, and perhaps re-listen to in the future. I just love Phil Tucker’s characters. Between this series and the Chronicles of the Black Gate, my favorite characters list has skyrocketed over the last 2 or so years. Kish and Acharsis are awesome, but this volume left me really liking Jarek and Annara a lot more as well. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!
My only criticism here is that the version of the book that I got (which I am pretty sure isn’t the version that is going to be distributed, so I’m not sure this even counts as a proper criticism) could use another go at copy edits. That’s it, and like I said, not sure if it counts. There is legitimately some stuff that happens in this one that left me wide-eyed (like ‘OH SHIT DID THAT JUST ACTUALLY HAPPEN YES IT DID OMG!’), and it is things like that that keep me reading well into the wee hours. It was a very satisfying story with a satisfying conclusion. Hoping for more soon!