Darel, dragon knight and the new leader of Black Keep, must travel to the palace of the God-King to beg for the lives of his people. But in the capital of Narida, Marin and his warrior husband will be drawn into a palace coup, and Princess Tila will resort to murder to keep her hold on power.
In the far reaches of the kingdom an heir in exile is hunted by assassins, rumours of a rival God-King abound, and daemonic forces from across the seas draw ever nearer…
Publication details: 7 September 2021, by Solaris. Review copy provided by the publisher
The first book in the God-King Chronicles series came out in March, which I thought was an incredibly promising start to a new series – so I was very thankful to get an ARC of the sequel.
In some respects, the God-King Chronicles is a pretty standard epic fantasy series. There are a range of characters from the north, south and west of the map – some of them are some of them are nobles, some of them are raiders, and some of them are religious leaders or gutter thieves. There are dragons (though these particular dragons are more like dinosaurs, really). This book does the standard things reasonably well: the world is relatively well-fleshed out with limited info-dumps, as we see the different cultural groups that make up Narida and its surrounding regions come into each others’ orbit, and the characters are all interesting enough to follow, even if I still have my favourites from book one, most notably Daimon and Saana, as well as Daimon’s brother Darel.
But there are two things the series does differently, and they are both on display in The Splinter King.
Firstly, I love that this is a series about conflict resolution via negotiation, rather than fighting. There are some battles, and some people do die, but this is overwhelmingly a hopeful series about what can happen when two parties seek to communicate with each other, compromise, and make genuine efforts towards reconciliation and harmony.
Secondly, Brooks does some really interesting things with gender. Narida is a queernorm world, with a range of different pronouns that signify the spectrum of possibilities for gender representation (in additional to multiple queer relationships). The Splinter King takes this a step further by introducing us to characters who are still figuring out where they sit on that spectrum, and how they might want to move along it and what this means for navigating their way through society. It takes a bit of getting used to as a reader, but after a while it becomes second nature, and it’s one of my favourite things about the series.
The Splinter King does suffer relatively significantly from ‘middle-book syndrome’. My main issue with book one was that a number of the characters felt disconnected from the main action that took place as Daimon and Saana tried to broker peace between their communities, and were clearly only introduced so we knew who they were in book two. These characters are much more integrated in this book – but the trade-off is that there are now far too many POVs, and the book isn’t able to fully do justice to all of their stories. There are a lot mini-climaxes and chapters that are very clearly about positioning characters for the finale, and a lot of stop-start action that comes from getting invested in one character’s story, only to transition to another.
Despite these challenges, on reflection my experience with The Splinter King was a positive one, as evidenced by the fact that I am very keen for the next book in the series – we have been blessed with the first two books arriving within six months of each other, so I can only hope Brooks keeps up the epic pace.