NO MAN IS ABOVE THE LAW
The Empire of the Wolf simmers with unrest. Rebels, heretics and powerful patricians all challenge the power of the imperial throne.
Only the Order of Justices stands in the way of chaos. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is the most feared Justice of all, upholding the law by way of his sharp mind, arcane powers and skill as a swordsman. At his side stands Helena Sedanka, his clerk and protege, orphaned by the wars that forged the empire.
When the pair investigate the murder of a provincial aristocrat, they unearth a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt and Helena must make a choice: will they abandon the laws they’ve sworn to uphold in order to protect the empire?
eARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Justice of Kings is the best book I’ve read so far this year because Richard Swan checks (almost) all the boxes of what I love in a narrative: a character-driven plot, a slow-burning intrigue, atmospheric settings, and charismatic characters that question themselves. The only box that isn’t checked yet is “an extensive worldbuilding”, but I feel like it will probably be developed in the second volume of the Empire of the Wolf series.
The characters are probably what I enjoyed the most in this first book. I am always looking for complex and interesting traits of character, and I was captivated by the – surprising – evolution of our protagonists. Vonvalt and Helena’s dynamics are particularly compelling because they each have doubts and ponder the consequences of their actions. Regarding their actions, the execution of the plot was satisfying to follow since I could feel that every decision and action undertaken by the protagonists had an impact on the plot and made it move forward. What I appreciate even more is that with each of these steps, the stakes grew slowly as well as effectively, so that by the end, we could trace back what/how each decision/action has led to the current problems.
Justice of Kings also made me feel lots of intense emotions I was not prepared for. I was so captured by the political and judicial intrigue and stakes, that I didn’t realize how much I cared for the character on an emotional level until they started treading dangerous paths. I was afraid for the fate of the protagonist just as much as I was dreading the collapse of the values represented by the Justices: No man is above the law.
Finally, what stayed with me the most is the peculiar atmosphere that every place the characters visit has in common – it is dark and intriguing. This strange atmosphere may well be the aura emanating from the fears a Justice arises from the wary villagers who distrust the “dark” powers Justices wield. I am very curious to learn more about the practices of the order of Justices, and I am sure that book #2 will deliver on it. Needless to say that I cannot wait for book #2… and the first one isn’t even officially released yet… (US release February 2nd 2022).