TL;DR Summary: “Hero taking on a bunch of wannabe heroes on a hard journey into the unknown to face a terror” story. A loveable fast paced read that takes you on a brilliant journey from the go! Light, fun and absolutely entertaining!
Who will take up the mantle and slay the evil in the Frozen North, saving all from death and destruction? Not Kell Kressia, he’s done his part…
Kell Kressia is a legend, a celebrity, a hero. Aged just seventeen he set out on an epic quest with a band of grizzled fighters to slay the Ice Lich and save the world, but only he returned victorious. The Lich was dead, the ice receded and the Five Kingdoms were safe.
Ten years have passed Kell lives a quiet farmer’s life, while stories about his heroism are told in every tavern across the length and breadth of the land. But now a new terror has arisen in the north. Beyond the frozen circle, north of the Frostrunner clans, something has taken up residence in the Lich’s abandoned castle. And the ice is beginning to creep south once more.
For the second time, Kell is called upon to take up his famous sword, Slayer, and battle the forces of darkness. But he has a terrible secret that nobody knows. He’s not a hero – he was just lucky. Everyone puts their faith in Kell the Legend, but he’s a coward who has no intention of risking his life for anyone…
The book ticks all of my holy trinity of a good prose: keep it simple, keep it fast and keep it fun! In many cases, it actually felt like a real life storytelling, which resonated greatly with me.
We get pulled into the story from the get go as the MC, Kell gets recalled back to repeat a quest he thought was done a decade ago and one that he’s still mentally recovering from. The world then gradually expands as we get to know more of the Five Kingdoms and outlying nations, the players, their intentions, the ever changing politics. At no point did the descriptions feel like info-dumps! Being dragooned into a repeat quest, Kell’s dilemma is well characterized and the plot mechanics are done intelligently that he ends up collecting a group of rag tag adventurers that are as broken as him and each with their own reasons to be going on this potentially suicidal journey. Then as their journey progresses, we get the learn more of the characters as they take flesh of their own. All this is done very organically and the way the prose moves over the characters and journey is flawless!
The prose skips well between the journey itself and the macro world politics and machinations seamlessly. The way the group comes together, the building up of the camaraderie, trust and care for each other just pulled me that I felt I was right there adventuring with them! Lots of adventuring follows, intriguing monsters and epic fights later the arc reaches as crescendo as we hit the finale…which I found bittersweet and very satisfying. It neatly ties to the current arc while leaving enough unresolved threads to make me eagerly await the next book.
Though the book subtly tugs heartstrings the prose keeps it light and doesn’t venture into grimdark territory, which I greatly appreciated. Unnecessary descriptions of cruelty and gore tend to bore me and thankfully this book delivered!
Overall, this is a easily bingeable book (which I finished in less than a day … and some of the night) but one which I thoroughly enjoyed cover to cover.
The book is mostly told from the PoV of Kell initially and then as the world, scope and characters widen we get to hear from Gerren and interspersed with the rest of the cast. The interactions between Kell and Gerren are the cream on the cake. The way their views right now sync inversely to what Kell felt a decade before is just beautifully told. Big or small, each character make an impression and feel unique and fulfilling to their respective roles.
The characterization of Kell interested me the most. He wanted to be left alone and when that doesn’t happen, he tries to dishonorably escape the forced responsibility and when even that becomes impossible, he reluctantly decides to see this through only for his feeling to change to resolve or die trying. The varying shades as he moves from one stage to another is realistically portrayed.
If I had to criticize anything in the book, it would have been the choice of the macro world antagonist. I hope the next books would have enough of twist to take this into unexpected directions. Knowing what I’ve read till now, I’m looking forward to the next book and finding it out myself!