Mareth is a bard, a serial under achiever, a professional drunk, and general disappointment to his father. Despite this, Mareth has one thing going for him. He can smell opportunity. The King is dead and an election for the new Lord Protector has been called. If he plays his cards right, if he can sing a story that will put the right person in that chair, his future fame and drinking money is all but assured. But, alas, it turns out Mareth has a conscience after all.
Neenahwi is the daughter to Jyuth, the ancient wizard who founded the Kingdom of Edland and she is not happy. It’s not just that her father was the one who killed the King, or that he didn’t tell her about his plans. She’s not happy because her father is leaving, slinking off into retirement and now she has to clean up his mess.
Alana is a servant at the palace and the unfortunate soul to draw the short straw to attend to Jyuth. Alana knows that intelligence and curiosity aren’t valued in someone of her station, but sometimes she can’t help herself and so finds herself drawn into the Wizard’s schemes, and worst of all, coming up with her own plans.
Chance brings this unlikely band together to battle through civil unrest, assassinations, political machinations, pirates and monsters, all for a common cause that they know, deep down, has no chance of succeeding – bringing hope to the people of Kingshold.
Kingshold is a political fantasy with a heavy focus on characters, which is not my usual choice of fantasy. Despite this, the premise intrigued me, so I decided to give it a go, and I’m very glad I did.
Set in a world on the brink of war, Kingshold (also the name of the city and capital of Edland) throws the reader straight into the middle of a city dealing with a number of political issues. The first and foremost being the death of its monarchy and need for new leadership. Without leadership, the city is in disarray with enemies both on the outside and within. There is a clear transition from a monarchy to a democracy in this novel. Of course this doesn’t sit well with many causing there to be some heavy resistance from the upper class and nobles, while the middle and lower class people come to terms with the idea of voting for their next leader. This follows a chain of political upheaval, betrayal, murder and more, with the rise of an unlikely hero vowing to put the correct person on the throne. There is of course mention of other civilisations and hints of war breaking out between Kingshold and another nations, but the book mostly focuses on Kingshold itself. While I did enjoy this I would have liked some more hints at what is happening in the outside world. There was, however, a major scene at the end which was very rewarding and opened up Kingshold to other major threats. I won’t go to much into detail, but it does involve a huge battle with some pretty unique enemies.
This book is multi-POV; we’re introduced to a strong and varied cast of characters; Neenahwi a witch with a dark past, Mareth the likeable bard and Alana a serving girl with a bright future ahead of her. Alongside these characters are an interesting addition of supporting characters, that really stood out. For me in particular that was Florian and Motega. What further made these characters interesting was their unique motivations and differences in voices. A lot of the time I find myself reading characters that sound to similar, however in Kingshold each character felt unique from the other.
The writing is of course excellent and riddled with humour, which gave the book a more light-hearted feel, rather than the to overdone dark fantasy. At times I did find the writing a bit long-winded and I definitely think the book could have been a bit shorter.
All in all a fantastic indie debut, which I would definitely recommend for lovers of political fantasy, as this novel really does scratch that itch. Also the cast is superb and has the potential for intriguing character development. Kingshold also paves the way for a huge fantasy world.
Oh yes…and this book ends in a pretty big cliffhanger! A proper CLIFFHANGER in a fantasy novel, what a beautiful addition!