What if you weren’t the hero?
As a bard’s apprentice, Kihrin grew up with tales of legendary deeds. He also steals, desperate to buy a way out of Quur’s slums. Then he raids the wrong house, he’s marked by a demon and life will never be the same again.
Kihrin’s plight brings him to the attention of royalty, who claim him as the lost son of their immoral prince. But far from living the dream, Kihrin’s at the mercy of his new family’s ruthless ambitions. However, escaping his jewelled cage just makes matters worse. Kihrin is horrified to learn he’s at the centre of an ancient prophecy. And every side – from gods and demons to dragons and mages – want him as their pawn.
Those old stories lied about many things too, especially the myth that the hero always wins.
Then again, maybe Kihrin isn’t the hero, for he’s not destined to save the empire. He’s destined to destroy it.
A masterclass in world building, this book is a true representation of the fantasy genre; every page of the book is a story in its own right, littered with culture, nuanced characters and history. Lots of history. My favourite fantasy books are those that don’t seem like the whole world—and story of that world—resides in its entirety in that series. They are those that feel like they’ve been clipped out of a rich tapestry of history and are just one moment, one thread of that. This book is certainly that and much more.
The characters in this are amazing and Kihrin is instantly … lovable? Likeable, he’s a character I’m happy to follow throughout this series and then some. We are treated to his story from two different timeframes, and many different POVS; he’s a thief with a gashed soul (yikes), an mysterious lineage, and a slave, who is bought at auction because of a prophecy and who has one of eight stones meant to put humans on par with the eight immortals. An evil stone which is bound to him, which has the control over his life or death, unless he gives it away freely—this stone links him to many different plots, weaving him into the stories of those who want it for themselves and those who wish to protect him. A stone of slavery and immortality certainly makes for the most coveted prize. Then we have Talon, a very, very old mimic, who makes up for most of the other POVs in this book, which is sometimes amusing and most of the time horrific (I know, I know, just read it.) There’s also a talking, sadistic dragon who likes songs, a group of assassins and many victims of the Stone of Shackles. A true eclectic mix of intrigue and mystery.
The storytelling element in this reminds me of the Kingkiller Chronicles (which I love, so bonus points), in which the story is presented by Talon and Kihrin taking it in turns to tell each other the parts of the story they know—in which Kihrin is mysteriously imprisoned by Talon. I love stories like this as the reason why the characters are there telling the story in the first place becomes a main point of intrigue. It has some clever, fun interludes which keep this mystery alive. With regards to the plot, to say it is complicated is an understatement and I applaud Lyons for being able to write and keep track of a story this complex. I love a complex story, but this even goes beyond what I—at times—was able to keep up with and I had to backtrack a little bit, but that is perhaps my small brain. Though, it is the only reason I couldn’t rate this book near full marks: there a many names, historical figures, characters, factions that all link, that sometimes is one person acting as many different people scattered across these and so on. Particularly when I was reading just before bed this became exceedingly difficult to remember.
I also loved how Lyons flipped the old Boy of Prophecy thing on its head with a cast who don’t seem to be all too thrilled about prophecy. Sometimes they loosely follow it, reciting prophecy that they think applies, but also with a main character who seems to ignore the importance of such a thing at the same time as being deeply involved in it.
The Ruin of Kings is a fantasy in its finest with regards to the complexity and originality of its nature. I have merely touched the surface on what is most definitely any hardcore fantasy fan’s cup of tea (or at least this one’s).