Monday, August 27, 2018

Review: City of Kings by Rob J. Hayes

City of Kings by Rob J. Hayes
Self-published, 2018
Ebook. 324 pages.
"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. 

A new stand alone First Earth saga novel."

 Rob J. Hayes is an author who has been on my radar for quite a while now, largely because of his most recent SPFBO 2017 winner, Where Loyalties Lie. I've not yet had a chance to pick it up yet, but I was recently contacted by Rob J. Hayes in regards to his latest release, City of Kings, so I happily jumped at the opportunity. City of Kings acts as a standalone, but it takes place after the events of Hayes' Ties That Bind trilogy and I'm sure having read the previous trilogy would have made this book even more enjoyable than I found it. That being said, I still really enjoyed this book!

The strongest point of this book, for me, were the characters themselves. Rose and her husband the Black Thorn steal the show from the start and I had a great time learning more about their personalities and relationship dynamic. Rose is a force to be reckoned with and is fueled by her vengeance, which makes for truly exciting time because she will stop at nothing to get what she deserves, not to mention the fact that she is pregnant while doing. I'd also just like to note here that this one of the only (?) fantasy books I've read where one of the main female protagonists is pregnant throughout the duration of many of the events of the book, which was a fascinating dynamic. The Black Thorn is large, highly capable man who was once an infamous outlaw, but is now largely preoccupied with supporting his wife and enacting vengeance on her behalf. These two make a really interesting couple, but I loved their interactions and seeing how they worked together, whether they agreed on something or not.

In addition to Rose and the Black Thorn, we also follow the POVs of Henry, Pern, and Anders, all of which bring their own unique flair to the bunch. I will admit that I felt a bit lost at first because I could tell that most of these characters had been explored quite a bit in the previous trilogy and I was surely missing out on knowing the background of their characters. However, once I got into the groove of things I really started to get to know the characters more and those issues went away. I do still think I'll pick up the previous trilogy at some point, though, because I'd love to explore more of this world and story. Another point I wanted to make about all of the characters is that they all easily fall on the grey scale of things, which adds much more intrigue to them and also makes them more compelling to follow. Some of them come across harsher than they actually are, but I'd be hard-pressed to really consider any of them good. I have no problems with this, because dodgy morals almost always makes for a good read. The only real issue I had with the characters is that I didn't particularly feel fully invested in any of them, and while I enjoyed reading about them and learning more about them, something just kept me at a bit of a distance from really feeling connected.

The events of this book take place after a war where almost all of the Blooded have been destroyed, save for a nigh impenetrable city that has yet to be cracked. This is where Rose's main motivation sets in, as her goal is to finally rid the land of all the Blooded before her child is born, including women and children alike if necessary. The entirety of this book actually takes place in a  fairly short amount of time, but it ever lagged much and I was always engaged with the story itself. There are a decent amount of violence battles and other scenes that I was a bit uncertain about at first since I often become bored or tired of extensive battles, but Hayes is an astoundingly talented writer that made every single part compelling--I almost feel bad for ever doubting him in the first place.

I loved exploring the world in this book, as well. Since I haven't read the other trilogy, I falsely believed this to be a rather low fantasy setting in the beginning, but slowly more and more fantastical things started  happening and creatures appeared and I realized that this was every bit the strong dark fantasy I imagined. Hayes has done a great job creating an exciting and detailed world that I enjoyed exploring and that has made me very interested in finally getting around to reading his other works.

Overall, I've given City of Kings four stars! Highly recommended for fans of dark fantasy with plenty of action and well-written battle scenes.

*I received an ARC of City of Kings courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the book.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

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