King’s Dragon by Kate Elliott
Review by Joshua S Hill
I started reading fantasy literature just after the release of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films in 2000, and as a result, I have not found there to be a lot of epic fantasy stories completed; books running over the 5 book mark. Recently we’ve seen the completion of Steven Erikson’s ‘The Malazan Book of the Fallen’ series and early January 2013 will see the completion of Robert Jordan’s epic ‘Wheel of Time’. There are other lesser names out there who have written long series of books – like Terry Goodkind and Terry Brooks, for example – but I have not found a lot of really good, long epic fantasy series.
Earlier this year I read Kate Elliott’s ‘Cold Magic’, and fell in love with her writing. She writes with such flawless ease and produces work of such quality that I quickly found myself scouring the internet and bookstores for anything she’s ever written.
Which was when I came across her ‘Crown of Stars’ series, completed back in 2006. Coming in at seven books long, and written by one of my now favourite authors, I was sure to enjoy it. But after some Twitterly advice from the author, I bought book one and two, just in case.
I should hardly have worried. Literally by page 2 I was already aware of how different this book was from the majority of fantasy I’ve read. A world as vivid and ensnaring as any I’ve encountered waited for me, and all I had to do was keep turning the page.
‘King’s Dragon’ is the first book in the series, and sets us up in a world where our two main characters – for the moment – are caught in seemingly dead-end lives. Yes, there is something of the stereotypical about bringing nobody’s into the wider world to play a larger role than they’d ever have imagined, but there is also something essentially captivating about that paradigm; something that we, as the reader, naturally aspire and relate to.
The world we are introduced to is expressed in such a way as to ensure you are aware you are reading epic fantasy, while still remaining true to the culture the author is writing for. The characters are fascinating and are dealt with in depth. The religious and royal politics that thrives in this book is beautifully captured in its greedy reality as are those who excel in it.
If I was to make one criticism of the book, it would be in the way Elliott has used Christianity as her baseline for the world’s predominant religion. There are a lot of parallels, almost too many and some points where I actually laughed as I recognised historical facts rewritten or simply copied (the authors of the four gospels, is one prime example).
However, I admittedly have a rather more sophisticated understanding of the Christian faith than a lot of Christians, let alone non-adherents, and this probably puts me in the minority of people who will see as many connections as I did.
In every other regard, however, the medieval society she writes is so perfectly cultivated and expressed that you can’t help but be drawn in to read, on the edge of your seat, every chapter and every page. If you too are looking for a nice long fantasy series to get stuck into, then you simply can’t look past Kate Elliott’s Crown of Stars, starting with King’s Dragon.
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