Wonderful photo borrowed from Natalie @ the.bookish.designer
If you’ve yet to see it, please check out my review for A Dagger in the Dark posted yesterday! I have been oscillating between migrating all of my trilogy reviews over to FanFI, or to just do a series review. To be honest, I can’t promise that I still won’t do so, but I wanted to start here.
As stated in yesterday’s review (and all over the internet for a couple years now), Tom was the first author to reach out to me on instagram about my reviews. He made a connection with me, and then offered me a copy of his book for my enjoyment, even stressing that right off the bat he had no expectations from me about it. Honestly the way he handled the entire thing actually made me excited about the prospects of working with authors, as I’m sure we’ve all had our fair share of cold DMs from authors looking for reviews. I’m glad to say that I ended up absolutely loving his writing and the novel, and he has been an auto-buy author for me ever since. He has actually announced his first novel outside of the Pillars of Peace world, if you missed the announcement you can check the details here.
As I reviewed the prequel novella yesterday, and shared the link above, I’ll pop right into the trilogy itself. Just really well written and enticing historical fantasy. With it’s lack of magic, it truly reads like something you could hear about out of a textbook, which truly took me by surprise in the best way. Not to mention the cover artwork–which is managed by. Steve Cooling-Smith at Chilligraphics–happens to be one of the more unique and beautiful sets I’ve seen in years.
Without further ado:
Two young men.
One with a dark past, the other with a bright future.
Cyrus is a storyteller frustrated by the mundane trappings of village life, while Prince Augustus struggles to meet high expectations after an upbringing of royal privilege in the bustling capital.
As both try to forge their own paths, a royal assassination unexpectedly closes the gap between them. The nation of Easthaven is thrown into war with their oppressive neighbours, and so begins a conflict from which neither can walk away.
Will a young prince finally measure up to his destiny? Will a storyteller create a legend of his own?
Cyrus and Augustus’s lives may seem worlds apart, but perhaps they aren’t so different after all…
I have now read TLOAK three times, once each time for the other releases.
When reading the back of the book, I found myself interested right off the bat. I mean, this stuff is right up my alley anyway, but I did wonder how it would stand out from the rest too…
To me, this has a very medieval, crusader-style England/Europe feel to it that I really liked. As a fantasy tale with no magic system, it was definitely nice to see this story feel more grounded like a story you’d hear in history.
The twists and turns in this story definitely have a George R. R. Martin-esque weaving to them, but as it’s told in only two perspectives it’s easy to follow for those that aren’t that huge into gigantic tales. I will say though that I did enjoy it to the point where I wondered about the characters we get to meet. And in that sense, means I would have read more perspectives and more storylines, which is the most Martin feeling part of all.
I’m really not even sure what else I can say because I want to remain spoiler free, but I need more people to read this, so that I can talk more openly about it.
As Cyrus rides away from the safety of his family in Highcastle to face his destiny in cunning King Simeon’s kingdom, Augustus braces himself for the arrival of a new threat: an invading army is coming for the capital.
Easthaven’s young king will need the support of those closest to him if there is any hope of saving not just the city but their kingdom. Will Thaddeus and Adaline be able to guide Augustus toward victory, or will a magnetic new influence cloud his judgement?
What fate awaits Cyrus in Auldhaven, and is there more to Simeon than meets the eye? As Cyrus’s journey takes him farther from home than ever before, his future will become more unpredictable. The outcome seems destined to be explosive.
War is coming, but the fiercest battles are often fought within.
I’ve read this one twice now, first when it released, and a second time in prep for the release of the third.
Well, I’ve done it. Here I am at the end of the sequel to The Look of a King. Wow. And just more wow.
Tom Dumbrell takes every bit of the first book and just amps it up for the full effect in the sequel. This book carries heart, wonder, excitement, surprise. Get ready to be on the edge of your seat from page one. You’ll get to see some characters you know and love, and meet even more along the way. Each character brings a purpose and poise to the story, building onto what other characters have laid out as the foundation. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, you’ll reread paragraphs and say, “wait WTF!?”! I am writing this literally seconds after finishing and I am already thinking about a reread. Don’t even get me started on book three…
Mildly spoiler-y from here on out FYI:
One quote that really stopped me dead in my tracks (which rarely ever happens, if at all…) was:
“The Verderan army descended upon the city like red wine spilled over a tablecloth, tainting all in its path.”
Like I actually stopped and reread it, savoring it. There had just been description of the archers on the walls and soldiers being shot. I was actually mentally picturing people being shot and blood flowing. The likening of the men descending upon the city in droves to red wine, mixed with my mental picturing of the blood of war, just really hit so well for me. And let me tell you, what the author does here from around pages 245 to 275 is just truly something else. Something special. The action and tension and stress that is packed into this is something other writings try to do with hundreds of pages. Yet Tom does so with a nimbler hand.
Many parts of the climax within this novel remind me of other things I love, and in the best way. The reserve guard at the keep just really speaks to my soul as a spiritual nod to the old men and children gathered to help in the battle of Helm’s Deep. The archers on the walls certainly were described in a way that had me picturing the pouring rain in the Two Towers film as they yelled, “FIRE!” The catapults raining destruction on the city really felt like watching The Return of the King, or for an even more straightforward historical nod, the Kingdom of Heaven. Fran being missing/ as a character really reminds me of young Arya Stark, as well as Wendell just really giving me extreme Lord Varys vibes for the entirety of the time we spent with him. With all this being said, I mean it in the best way possible, as these things I saw as little links highly enhanced my enjoyment overall.
This book certainly delivers on some added perspectives which was a desire I had after finishing book one. I’d once again like to double down that the author could add more and more and the tale would only become more intricate and beautiful. Just like the writing of George R. R. Martin, which is a writing style I likened the author too after finishing the first novel.
As a novel, this is a 5/5* all day long. As a sequel, I wish I could give this novel a 6/5* for real. Don’t hesitate, read this book. If you haven’t read The Look of a King yet, there’s still plenty of time, and they’re really so worth it.
Ten years have passed since the Battle of Highcastle.
As Peacehaven’s new king takes the country from strength to strength, Fran strikes out on her own in neighbouring Cornesse, where she is the chosen shield to the venerated queen, Mathilde.
It seems Mathilde has everything under control—except her own future. Concerns for Cornesse’s royal succession send Fran on a journey she never expected to undertake and certainly didn’t know she needed.
Meanwhile in Highcastle, an inexperienced prison master is given responsibility over a notorious brigand. As the son of a decorated war hero, Locke must learn the job quickly, setting aside his demons in order to establish a name of his own in a place where no one knows who he is.
Will Fran’s journey on behalf of a queen teach her something about herself instead?
Will Locke falter under the weight of his father’s expectations?
Will the king and queen of Peacehaven find their happily ever after?
Peace is a romantic notion, but someone has to fight for it.
I have only read this one once so far, and it’s honestly because it hurt me very deeply. Damn you, Tom.
This is the third and final installment in the Pillars of Peace trilogy. As many of you know I’ve been following along (quite loudly) since book one, and I still firmly believe every person on earth should give these a read!
In this third installment we get a new group of perspectives. As ten years have passed, it’s not that Tom is doing away with the original main characters, he’s simply telling others’ stories now. For starters we get a heavy dose of Francine. 10 years older, she’s now a young adult and the chosen shield to Queen Mathilde. We also get a heavy dose of a new character named Locke (who we technically briefly meet in No Place For Peace). Locke is a very troubled and tormented individual. Not necessarily a good or bad man, but perhaps cornered into bad decision making, the author does a great job of giving us an entirely different feel with him.
The author is another writer that simply gets his characters. Even the characters that aren’t given the fully fledged attention of being a perspective are fleshed out and have depth to them. He’s able to take the characters we know and love and age them 10 years, with experiences and hopes and desires we may never know about, and yet their character development still shows a believable change. I’m looking at you King Cyrus!
The action is big, the emotion is better. There’s such a fine line while weaving the two of those things together and the author just hits it perfectly time and time again. We need the action for the harder hitting emotions, and emotions are what drives these characters to action.
Considering the three novels as a whole, the author’s writing has progressed and matured in every single one. There are some sentences and pages that I don’t believe could have been written without the first and second novel existing first. Both in terms of literal content of course, and the growth as a writer. I’ve often likened the author’s ability to weave perspectives to George R.R. Martin, and I’ve seen his character building likened to Joe Abercrombie as well. I’d personally put these three novels by Tom up there with any of them!
I know many of you won’t have read this yet, but I will be bombarding you about it regardless. This book is perfect, a flawless close to a fantastic trilogy.
“Battle was where Heroes were born.”
I’ve said this many times before, I’m sure it’s pasted in my reviews above–I 100% believe there is something to like in this trilogy for everyone. I think it’s totally worth everyone’s time, effort, and even money to acquire and read these.
But, while we are here, I feel like it’d be a miss to not talk about the tireless work Tom put in working on a special edition omnibus for fans. With unbelievably stunning artwork and design from Catrina @ Catrina_Paints, and of course help closing everything out with help from our sponsor over at The Broken Binding. I was very lucky to be given early access to it, as I DM’d Tom about not missing out until he was probably ready to block me, and it’s definitely up there with my top books in my collection. I think next time I read I’ll actually do a read through of the omnibus.
A beautiful dust jacket, foiled naked cover, sprayed edges, ribbon marker, with black endpapers
About the Author
Tom was born in 1987 in Chelmsford, Essex. As a boy, he fell in love with the fantasy worlds of video games and those written by the likes of J.R.R Tolkien and Philip Pullman.
Despite an early passion for storytelling, Tom obtained a BA in Tourism Management before a varied career in the travel industry, bringing to life another of his passions. When he is not working, Tom is an avid fan of his beloved Ipswich Town. He also writes and performs music and enjoys long walks with his wife and dogs.
Tom currently lives near Colchester, Essex, and the first two books of the ‘Pillars of Peace’ series were written during the 2020 pandemic with huge influence and editing support from his wife, Breana.
As Tom greatly understated above, let us not forget that Breana Dumbrell is a powerhouse of an in-home editor, and Tom is ultimately just okay.