Tough Travels – Kings

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: KINGS

KINGS come in four kinds: Puppet Kings, Bad Kings, Good Kings (rare), and Long Lost Kings.

Let's kick things off with a pair of favorite characters from Stephen Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen - Hood, King of High House Death, and Tehol Beddict, King of Letheras. Once a powerful Jaghut, Hood not only claimed the Throne of Death, but was rumored to be powerful enough to have become an Elder God (had he so wished). His high point, for me, was opening the gates and summoning ALL the dead to help his fellow prisoners of the sword Dragnipur fend off the forces of chaos. While Hood occasionally disguised his darkness with moments of black humor, Tehol did the opposite, hiding his genius behind the role of a fool (with the assistance of his manservant, Bugg). In a saga renowned for its brutality, Tehol single-handedly brought about the downfall of Letheras through a financial scam, borrowing every penny in the city and leaving its economy to collapse. Following some Bonehunter heroics, he was ultimately crowned king of Lether.

Sticking with the theme of dark epics, I've got to go with The Crimson King of Stephen King's Dark Tower Saga (along with Insomnia and Black House). He is the archetype of evil, the very embodiment of darkness in King's interwoven multiverse, with his ultimate goal being the toppling of the Dark Tower itself, thereby destroying all of the universes that revolve around it. Completely bat-shit insane, he ends up killing himself (along with everyone in his kingdom of Discordia), only to come back as an equally insane undead monster. Even before his monstrous resurrection, he was a shapeshifter and a chameleon, appearing to people as whatever or whomever they fear most, with his hypnotic blood red eyes remaining the only constant.

Keeping with the theme of terrifyingly insane kings, we have King Yoon of Andy Remic's Rage of Kings saga. An "insane, maggot-infested bastard," he is a man who refuses to protect his realm, gleefully murdering anybody who dares speak out against him, all the while indulging himself in the most decadent vices. When we first meet him, he is overseeing the construction of the Tower of the Moon, an immense phallic symbol commissioned after one of his drunken orgies to be the tallest structure ever built. Its construction has already bankrupted the kingdom and drained its men, but he wants more levels, more gargoyles, more everything. To make matters worse, he's in league with Orlana the Changer, a cold, cruel, stunningly beautiful sorceress with absolutely no regard for anything but her own motivations. She is the mistress of the splice - monstrous creatures formed by the imperfect, deliberately tortured splicing together of men and beasts - with Yoon only too happy to sacrifice the men and women of his kingdom to her splicing.

Finally, to change things up a bit, Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive offers us Elhokar Kholin, King of Alethka and nephew of Gavilar (whom everybody knows would make a far superior King. Having assumed the throne upon his father's assassination, Elhokar is both paranoid and insecure, seeing dire threats in the most innocuous of actions, and constantly lamenting the fact that he believes he's not a good king. While a little humility is good in a king, he cannot admit his errors to anybody but himself, and has a terrible temper when anybody else suggests that he may be wrong in something. There is a hint of potential in him, however, with his ability to see things in mirrors - twisted figures with symbols for heads - that may be akin to Shallan's drawings.


  1. I had Elhokar as well! :) Great list! I really want to make time to read Dark Tower sometime.

  2. So has that damn tower been completed yet? You ever read past the first book?

  3. the first one has such a stunning cover

  4. Haha, you even threw in a bonus...Stephen King! (I know, I'm so lame).

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

  5. Well, this is a depressing list ;)


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