I’ve been meaning to read this book for an absolute age, but have been bogged down with so much other stuff, and could never manage the time. But then! A wild audiobook appeared! I can always find time for audiobooks (because I can listen to them while I work, hooray!).
So thanks very much to the author, as well as Tantor Media for the review copy of this audiobook.
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.
This is the story of a few different people, who live in (or around) the city of Kingshold. The King and Queen are dead, caught doing horrible shenanigans by their wizard, Jyuth. He has decided that since he was the one that started the monarchy, and that it’s been getting worse and worse every time, it is time for a democracy. So, he declares the monarchy abolished (by murderkilling the king and queen), and that there will be an election in a month to see who will lead the city.
And so, as you can imagine, the nobility all go to ridiculous lengths to cheat, assassinate, or bribe themselves into power. Many political shenanigans are had.
We see this story from a few perspectives:
- Mareth is a usually-drunken bard who takes it upon himself to record the story of the election and compose the ultimate song. As the election proceeds, with varying levels of shenanigans involved, this becomes a bit harder to achieve.
- Neenahwi is the adopted daughter of Jyuth, and a powerful magic user in her own right. When she returns to Kingshold after a fairly short absence, nothing is as she left it, and it’s almost certainly the fault of her father, who has decided that he’s leaving at the end of it all, and putting her in his place.
- Alana is Jyuth’s servant that gets caught up in Jyuth’s shenanigans, and has to dig herself out of it. Her and her sister Petra are hoping to get a commoner elected as Lord Protector, in the best interest of most of the city.
- Motega and his two companions Florian and Trypp are men with… a varied skillset that are hired to find evidence that one of the candidates is on the shady side of things, and when they break into his house to find that evidence they find themselves being blackmailed into gathering enough money that an old acquaintance of theirs can vote in the election.
- Hoskin is the man put in charge of things while the election is going on. He’s not really having a good time of it.
This seems like a lot of POVs, but I didn’t find this many perspectives difficult to keep up with, but then I listened to this one in audio, so, the accents and tone changes generally cover that sort of thing.
I loved the characters in this one. Mareth really grew as a character over the course of this book as his circumstances change. He was an easy character to root for, because he is inherently a good dude. He is tempted at times to do things that are wrong, but tries to resist. The times that he does do things that have consequences that aren’t great it is usually because he hasn’t really thought it through all the way, or that whatever he is doing is very spur of the moment. Mareth has some interesting abilities that manifest over the course of the story as well. I just really enjoyed my time with him.
Motega was another character that I also really liked. He and his friends are a fantastic team, even if what they do is sometimes dubiously legal. Or… uh… not at all legal. Motega is Neenahwi’s brother, and both of them are from a tribal people who have close relationships with animals. Motega has a falcon with whom he is bonded with. The falcon is a great help at times.
This story was well written, and well plotted. I never found myself bored with it, even when it was getting into really political shenanigans. There was intrigue while still having plenty of fights, duels to the death, giant fire breathing turtles, panther-headed demons, and what have you to keep things action-packed.
The narrator, Sheila Dearden, did a pretty great job. There wasn’t a huge range of voices, but the ones that were there were all well done, and I found myself able to turn this book on and just listen to it for hours at a time. Some of the accents were a little iffy sounding, but not so much that it ever caused any real issue with my enjoyment. To be honest, she just has a pleasant sounding voice, which makes it easy to listen to, period.
So, all told, I really enjoyed this one quite a bit! I’m very glad that it came out in audiobook because I’ve had this one on my to-read list since the beginning of time, but books in audio make my work day so much better. Especially when they are as good as this one was! 4.5/5 stars! I can’t wait until the next installment!