Royal Exile by Fiona McIntosh
Review by Joshua S Hill
Authors that rely upon convenience to make their story work will always have a hard road ahead of them. It does not always mean that the book is bad or not worth reading, but you will often reach the last page and feel a little cheated.
One such author who is guilty of this contrived convenience is Fiona McIntosh. And while I won’t dwell on any of her other books, Royal Exile, her latest published book and the beginning of a new trilogy, bears all the hallmarks of what came before: stories with great potential, but that are let down in the mechanics.
Royal Exile is the first book in McIntosh’s new Valisar Trilogy. We are introduced to the Set, a collection of several kingdoms, including Penraven, the original and largest of them all. King Brennus Valisar is facing invasion, and though it is already too late to save himself, he intends to save the Valisar Line by all means possible.
The premise for the book is nothing short of brilliant, and stems from aspects of cannibalism that McIntosh wrote about in The Quickening series. But whereas some authors will allow their characters to be the source of drive for the story, McIntosh relies upon the plot, and leaves her characters floundering in half hearted, unexplained and unimaginative shallows.
This comes as a surprise, considering that Robin Hobb seems to be a big fan of McIntosh’s, having been quoted on several of her books. On the front cover of Royal Exile, Hobb is quoted as saying: “Two words on the cover – “Fiona McIntosh” – always let me know that I’m in for a good read.” And while I’d be hard pressed to say a bad thing against Hobb’s writing, her choice of reading is mysterious.
That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy Royal Exile, but being a reader who is always reading more than one book at a time, I knew that Royal Exile wasn’t up to scratch. All I wanted to do was get it finished and start reading Stephenson or Erikson or Martin.
Royal Exile jumps perspective a lot, giving almost every character a chance to express their thoughts on the goings on. Sadly, the most interesting ones were the ones who received the least attention; Piven and Sergius and Ravan. Subsequently, they were also the characters who were hinted as having more to do with the story than the rest.
Leonel and Gavriel are shades of real characters, at best. We spend the most time with them, but even now I have no real idea how McIntosh believes me to accept her word on the possibility that Leo is so mentally capable and Gavriel one moment so loyal and driven and the next so impossibly stupid.
I will more than likely attempt to get my hands on books two and three when they arrive, simply to see how the story unfolds. Maybe character development was slated for book two, and maybe Corbel will actually return.
The most contrived scene of the book is where, for the slimmest of reasons and entirely unexplained, the invading barbarian horde is let in through a side gate to take over the keep. All kinds of things come to mind as reasons that this is unlikely on so many levels, but we’re soon swept along without even an explanation as to what happened to the betrayer.
This book is not going to rate highly, but maybe it’s worth a read anyway. It isn’t a complete loss, and if you have nothing else to read, then go ahead. But then again, that’s not really a rousing endorsement is it.
Tavii from UK
Rubbish, utter rubbish is the only way to describe it. this is the first time I've read McIntosh's work and I am extremely disappointed. Events in the book are comically unbelievable, and the storyline is riddled with stupid decisions by characters just for the sake of the storyline moving on. Dialogue is childish and there is barely any consistency in the way characters act nor is there much in the way to differentiate between the way different characters think, act and say. You could probably switch around character names in different dialogues without it affecting the story and without making you think that it was "out of character" for a particular character to say something. And while the story has its "gory" moments, it feels forced and is only their just to please the reader and doesn't feel necessary for the storyline. In summary, the whole of the story feels forced and feels like the whole of the events of the book could have been avoided had ANY of the characters had a mere speck of good sense. It seems the only reason that could explain why the events in this book took place is that ALL the characters have an IQ below 50. I have to admit, I only read 2/3 of the way through the book and then just stopped. If it improves at all after that I couldn't say but with a foundation as bad as that, I can't really be bothered with the storyline any longer.
What did you think about Royal Exile?
Submit your own reader review and award the book the rating you think it deserves.