The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received this book for free as part of the 2021 Hugo Voting Packet
This was a great, fun book. The only point I really had against it is that eventually with all the fantasy names and locations and history, things eventually got a little convoluted to where I couldn’t remember who was related to whom and it really starts to matter in the last quarter of the book. The book has an interesting framing device – one of the book’s characters, Thurvishar, has written a report to the Emperor to document what happened. The introduction even includes a bit of lampshade hanging about the fact that he’s going to have to tell the real-world reader some things that the in-world reader (the Emperor) would already know.
The report is supposed to be in three parts, but that sets your expectations slightly wrong because the first part of the book is the first 3/4 (actually more because there’s also an appendix at the end). Part 1 reminds me a bit of the way that Christopher Nolan’s Mememto plays out. We have two narratives going on about our main character, Khirin. One narrative starts a few years in the past and makes its way to the time point of the first chapter. The other narrative starts from that first chapter and takes us to just shy of the “present”. That was fun to read because you’re able to look for foreshadowing and other little story-telling easter eggs because you know where the narrative is headed.
At its most basic level this is a Chosen One narrative, but the author plays with lots of subtropes, often subverting what you might expect while on a Chosen One journey. To go deeper than that would risk giving too much of the plot away, but at least it’s more creative than a basic Chosen One narrative. Lyons has populated the world with quite a few interesting magic systems, gods, and goddesses. Some of the background made me think of Sanderson’s Cosmere which makes me wonder if the author was inspired by Sanderson or if she’s just playing with very similar tropes.
Overall, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for some fun fantasy that plays with many different parts of the form. Lyons also is a speed demon since this book came out in 2019 and she’s already at book #4. So you’re not going to get left behind as you might with other fantasy books unless she gets hit by a bus or something.
I was able to read everything in here without issue, but if you need some TWs: there is child abuse, non-consensual sex, profanity. I’d recommend (depending on your values/the kid’s maturity level) for at least high school/secondary school or older.
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