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Friday, October 4, 2013

Daniells Brings the King Breaker Home (#bookreview)

Not to be deliberately facetious, but I only had two concerns with King Breaker, the conclusion to King Rolen's Kin - namely, the beginning and the end. That's not to say that this is, by any means a bad book, or that Rowena Cory Daniells did, in any respect, a poor job of wrapping up the various threads left hanging after The Usurper. Far from it. It's simply an acknowledgement of where I had issues.

Let's start with the beginning. Granted, Daniells had a lot to catch up on in terms of characters and plot threads, but I found the opening chapters to be a very slow read. There's a lot of talk, a lot of angst, and a lot of shared frustration, but nothing that really moves the story forward. For the most part, it's a lot of set-up and maneuvering of game pieces, setting up the reunions and confrontations that we know will drive the heart of the story. We're actually a good 150 pages in before the story really takes off, but once it does, it's just as good - if not better - than any of the books that came before.

While the entire saga has largely been Byron's story, the other main characters get a lot of time centre stage in this final volume. Fyn's story is likely my favorite and, if not the strongest, one of the most pivotal. He really struggles with his loyalties, stuck somewhere between love and duty, and I thought Daniells carried his story well. Florin's story I didn't care for quite as much, mainly because it felt so drawn out, but for a character who really emerged from the second tier to become a viewpoint character, it certainly has it's moments. Garzik's story is, by far, the darkest of the lot, with some really difficult scenes to watch him suffer through, although Daniells, quite mercifully, doesn't dwell on the details. Like Fyn, he's very much trapped between divided loyalties, and his growth over the course of the series is nothing short of remarkable.

After being physically separated and emotionally distanced from one another for so long, it was nice to see Byron and Orrade together again. I think Daniells may have tried a little too hard to restore their friendship, and to prove Byron was over his homophobia, but there's no denying that there's real power to that friendship. Their early scene involving a man overboard, a dead wyvern, and a very intimate sort of healing is one of the series' finest moments. As for Piro, her story was, for me, the weakest of the lot - but a lot of that likely has to do with the fact that I never found her to be a likable character, and didn't find her relationship with Siordun nearly as interesting once his true identity was out in the open.

That brings us, of course, to the ending. While Daniells did a solid job of wrapping up the key story threads, and providing a resolution to all of the key character arcs, I had honestly hoped for something a bit . . . well, happier and uplifting. There are certainly some triumphs to be celebrated, and some happy endings for a few characters, but the overall tone is rather melancholy and troubled. I think it's absolutely a strong ending (not to mention a brave one), and one that's entirely realistic, given the social and political realities of her world, but it was just a bit more gritty than I had hoped for.

My own minor quibbles aside, King Breaker was a solid, largely satisfying end to the saga. There's certainly room for Daniells to revisit the characters again, should she choose, but there are no cliffhangers or nagging questions like there were with The Usurper. If you're a fan of the series, then this final volume should be precisely what you're looking for. If you're new to the series, then step back and begin with The King's Bastard - you won't regret it.


Paperback, 774 pages
Published September 17th 2013 by Solaris

2 comments:

  1. Homophobia? Odd element in a fantasy story. Although cool there is a character called Byron. After your review, might check out The King's Bastard.

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    1. It's definitely worth a read, Alex. She does some interesting things with prejudices and racism that add an extra layer to the text, but beneath it all is a really strong tale of heroic fantasy.

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