Review: City of Kings by Rob J. Hayes

Love this typography 😍

Yay! When I learned that this series takes place in the same world as Hayes’ Best Laid Plans series, I happily accepted an ARC copy, because while this one follows different characters, who are more of the mercenary nature than pirate, it’s still bound to be full of all sorts of the shenanigans that I know and love.

So, this review is based on an advance reader copy. 🙂

War makes monsters and corpses of us all.

For generations the blooded have ruled the Wilds, cultivating a lawless frontier and bleeding the good folk dry. The Black Thorn, once the most wanted outlaw the world has ever seen, is set on stopping them, and bringing an end to the great game that oppresses them all.

Crucible is the only blooded fortress left, but not for nothing is it called the City of Kings. Its defenses are unbreakable, its walls unassailable, all built so one hundred can hold back a thousand. Worse yet, the Black Thorn is running out of time and there are darker things hiding underground, looking to turn the city into a tomb.

“Them folk are dead, Pern.” Henry gave up standing over him and sat down next to him. “Ain’t a consolation. But they’re dead. An’ you’re not. Ain’t worth joinin’ ’em over a little guilt.”

“A little?” Pern winced against the sunlight and wished the bustling camp of soldiers would quiet.

“Maybe a lot. Still ain’t worth dyin’ over. Anders might tell ya ta find some sort of peace at the bottom of a bottle. Problem is Anders don’t know shit. Only thing you ever find at the bottom of a bottle is a reason ta look for a full one.”

I seriously loved the Best Laid Plans duology, and so I was quite excited to crack this one open and fill my eyeholes with it.

In this story, we have the Black Thorn, and his wife Rose, who are on a mission to take over the area of this world known as the Wilds. It’s pretty much them vs the blooded, who are somewhat like the nobility here, and they’ve eliminated all but 3 of the blooded families and taken their cities. Those 3 families are all holed up in one big fortified city known as Crucible, and Rose and Thorn and their forces are pretty much putting it under siege. Very short siege. Because Rose is very, very pregnant and she is determined to take this city before her child is born. Some of their people, like Pern Suzku and General Verit are looking for alternate ways into the city from underneath through a system of caves, and dealing with some decidedly creepy and dangerous shit in said caves. Things like trolls, and necromancers.

But mainly, there’s fighting. Plenty of fighting.

Though this story takes place in the same world as The Ties That Bind series, and mentions characters from the Best Laid Plans duology as well, it is actually a standalone. Even despite nearly every character in this book having had a part in The Ties That Bind, I didn’t feel completely lost on who someone was… though at times I will admit to feeling like there was a fair bit of backstory I really wish I was in on, because characters will at times reference events that I assume happened during that storyline. It’s all stuff that was not necessarily pertinent to this particular bit of story, but all the same, all of these characters have history. A history I don’t know. I will soon though, I hope! 😀

This book started out with a bang, as the story begins pretty much right in the action, but I’ll admit that it took me a little while to orient myself into the world. Nevertheless, I found myself reading into the wee hours before too long, and by the middle of the book it was becoming harder and harder to put it down. By the end it was a lost cause, and I was reading it either while, or in lieu of anything else I needed to do.

There is fighting and many, many fucks were given, just like there was in the Best Laid Plans series, and while Rose and Thorn and company weren’t exactly as likable to me as Drake and Keelin were, I still enjoyed myself quite a bit here, mainly due to some of Rose and Thorn’s crew. My favorite character in this one was probably Anders, because even while being a hopeless drunkard, he’s full of snark and attitude. He’s more or less a spy, but he is a former blooded, and technically the son of the man in charge of Crucible. He may not be nobility anymore, but you can still see a bit of that in him, especially in the way he speaks, which is far more noble sounding than anyone else. There is also something about him that is special. Very, very special, and I want to know more!

I also really liked Pern Suzku, who is a dishonored bodyguard who failed to guard the body he was assigned to and now his entire clan is after him for it. He is part of a warrior race or clan who value honor more than a whole host of other things. It felt like something along the lines of a samurai. Not going to lie, he was pretty much Himura Kenshin in my mind. Except with… y’know… more cursing and killing dudes. >.>

There is a good deal of gore and brutal violence in this book, and while not all of it is described in detail, there are still events that made me stop for a second and just say ‘…wow. That just happened.’ Pretty much the last quarter of this book is fucking boooonkers. But, within the world that this story takes place in, and with the tone of the novel from beginning to end, it all fit. This world is not a great place, and The Wilds are not a great place within it either. Those are two truths that really show in this novel. But, all the same, there were enough light-hearted bits that the dark bits didn’t make the whole thing a depressing slog. There is hope, at the end. There are characters who go their separate ways. There are…. things that were hinted at around the end of this one that absolutely mean I will read the next book that takes place in this world, and the next, and the next.

No, not this one. BECAUSE THIS ONE SUCKS. YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID, ANDERS. Still not over it like 7 years later >.> (Admittedly there was a point in this one when Anders spoke to a character named Alistair and I loled on principle).

I’m planning on reading The Ties That Bind, because after all, I want to know what Drake Morrass’ backstory is too, but this story only strengthened that desire, because there is one hell of a backstory here to read about, and I must have it! But, alas, until there are audiobooks (audiobooks again, really, as it’s actually a pretty messed up situation about those) I probably won’t find the time for much longer than I’d like. No, YOU stop taking on so many requests that you feel like you’ll never catch up. 😀

This one gets 4/5 stars from me. I really liked it, and I’m so excited for more in this world. This one comes out on August 6th!


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