Esme’s SPFBO 5 Review: The Crumbling Kingdom by Jeffrey Hall


Long Ass Review:


Wish and Moso live in a city that’s surrounded by a dense, dangerous, and oft-thought cursed jungle. Those brave enough to go into the jungle to get supplies for medicine, riches buried ages ago, or animals for food are known as jungle-divers. Wish and Moso are some of the best around, but at the start of the book, they’re in dire straits. Moso has haphazardly gambled his way into a huge debt and he needs to pay it off fast or start losing body parts to his debtor. They play it loose and risky and nearly end up getting killed by a giant lizard thing while trying to get its eggs to trade. Wish finds a wooden box in the nest of the lizard and decides to take it back home just in case it’s valuable. It was, and it leads to them going on a quest to find all the boxes because each one holds a verse to an ancient song. The song is thought to belong to one of the world’s most powerful botamancers (plant mages) and it’s worth fuck tons of money. They’ve been hidden all over the city and Wish and Moso have to find them all before his collectors come for their money. It has a very adventurous tone, it wasn’t particularly ‘light’ or ‘dark’. 

The stylistic prose is what first captured my attention about this book. The writing in this has a very distinct flow and rhythm to it. A quote from the opening paragraph:

“The cracked and discarded blue casings of eaten agi nuts lay strewn across its exterior like the sky had fractured and dribbled its boney debris along the jungle’s floor.”

It wasn’t always this colorful and metaphoric, the writing could also switch pace from flowing to short staccato sentences to get across strong feelings, sudden changes, and short descriptions. This sort of mishmash doesn’t always work for me, however, in this book it was done in a way that kept the pace moving while also providing a great atmosphere. Colors, sounds, and smells were all heavily used to make you feel like you were in the moment without going so far as to overdose you and you forget what it is you’re reading about. There was a decent amount of cursing, for those who don’t like the word ‘fuck’ I’d pass since this book gives 42 fucks. Totally personal, and it didn’t bother me too much, but there were a lot of in-world curses as well as real-world cursing. At least they weren’t f word replacements. “What a smook” reads better than something like, “smook you!” Overall, the writing was pretty good except for the abundance of random typos. Most of them were things like “wasso” instead “was so”, this dragged down the writing score just a tad.   

I read this pretty quickly, I read this in one go when I was unable to sleep one night. I felt like the writing helped speed the story along. There were descriptions but there wasn’t any meandering in the plot as filler, there wasn’t much in the way of irrelevant details either. I felt like there was proper downtime between action sequences and character development, and just as I was starting to think it needed to pick up, something happened to change the pace which helped me keep the pages turning. 

The characters were next to grab my attention. The main character, Wish, is just a plain normal human, but his counterpart, Moso, is a sentient monkey from a race known as the Chassa. His fur is dyed green and he uses sign language to communicate after getting his tongue cut out for owing too much money. I’ve seen a lot of animal companions and sentient/hyperintelligent versions of wild animals, I’m not sure why I’ve never seen it be a monkey. In this world, there are a bunch of different sentient species intermingling and coexisting in the same city – wolves, gorillas, birds of all kinds, lizards etc – it’s kind of like Bojack Horseman in that way. Moso almost reminds me of Bojack himself. They both have addiction issues, they’re both a bit crass, they’re both impulsive and overly fond of women. It’s not often I see gambling addiction addressed in fantasy, I may have read a book or two that has done this but it’s rare. It was interesting to see just how big a role that played in Moso’s character and the predicaments it caused for both himself and Wish. Moso and Wish are polar opposites and I think this is why I found them to be the most compelling relationship in the book. Wish is more thoughtful, he’s less greedy, he has no addiction or gambling issues and is in love with a girl who doesn’t want him back. They make an unlikely pair, but what keeps them together is their past. It’s a rough world out there and people you can trust are rare, even though these two can drive each other nuts, they believe they can count on each other to have their backs if they need it. Moso has saved Wish’s life, and Wish tries his best to keep him paid up to date on his debts.  

Wish had a few other close relationships that didn’t grab me nearly as much, one of them didn’t surprise me, the other one did. I’m not big into romances, I find they often times have a predictable outcome and I just don’t find myself invested. This time wasn’t much different for me, it wasn’t bad, I wasn’t actively disliking it, but it wasn’t my favorite aspect. The one that did sort of surprise me the relationship with his aging father. I typically like older characters, I’m a caregiver myself in hospice so I got interested in this storyline at first. I guess I felt like the father was a bit too flat for me to care about him. There were a few moments where I was supposed to feel something, and I didn’t. This is another aspect of the books where the pros and cons lead to a med-high score in Characters. 

The world building was one of the highlights of the book for me, I don’t often see jungle settings and when it’s done right it’s awesome. This jungle is sort of the nemesis of civilization, there’s been an ages-long war between the jungle and the city, and right now it looks like the jungle is winning. The city is dilapidated, the walls surrounding it have cracks and chunks missing out of it, and the outer layer of the city, known as The Trough, suffers nightly from unwanted jungle visitors. The Trough is filled with people who can’t afford to live elsewhere, but they aren’t forgotten. There’s another war going on between the city as well, and it’s a fight to see who can bleed the poor completely dry and fill their pockets in the mean-time. The Green Men are supposed to be the Trough’s “defenders” from the King. However, they are basically like the mafia and shake people down for protection money. The King gets pissed because once the poor pay their protection fees they don’t have any left over for taxes. These two factions are coming to a head as bodies of the palace guards start appearing in the streets. The one area of the world building that really confused me was the currency/economy. In the opening scene Wish and Moso are cornering a giant lizard creature that has rows and rows of sharp teeth – the goal being to steal the eggs she’s laid. It’s said over and over again how dangerous the jungle is, how dangerous these creatures are, and how rare the eggs are. The duo got 2 lunars per egg they bring back…. But a beer cost about 2 lunars which didn’t make sense to me. 

All in all, I felt like this was a solid read, there wasn’t a lot in this book that made me actively dislike it, there was a lot of neat ideas that I feel needed to be polished just a bit more to get those really high scores from me.


  • Character: 12/15
  • Plot: 10.5/15
  • World Building: 12.5/15
  • Writing: 11.5/15
  • Pacing: 12.5/15
  • Originality: 12/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 7/10

Final Score: 78/100 –> 7.8/10 –> 3.9/5 stars on GR (rounded to 4/5)


Read: 100%

Rating of 78/100

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2 thoughts on “Esme’s SPFBO 5 Review: The Crumbling Kingdom by Jeffrey Hall

Add yours

  1. This is *so in-depth*, thanks so much for giving such an excellent overview. I feel like I’ve got a really good handle on what to expect from The Crumbling Kingdom now.

    Liked by 1 person

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