The King’s Bastard by Rowena Cory Daniells
Review by Jasper de Joode
Fantasy Book Review Book of the Month, October 2012
Only seven minutes younger than Rolencia’s heir, Byren has never hungered for the throne. He laughs when a seer predicts that he will kill his twin. But the royal heir resents Byren’s growing popularity. Across the land the untamed magic of the gods wells up out of the earth’s heart. It sends exotic creatures to stalk the wintry nights and it twists men’s minds, granting them terrible visions. Those so touched are sent to the Abbey to control their gift, or die. At King Rolen’s court enemies plot to take his throne, even as secrets within his own household threaten to tear his family apart.
The King’s Bastard is the first book in The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin trilogy written by Rowena Cory Daniells which follows the footsteps of Byren, one of King Rolen’s sons. From the blurb I could make a educated guess what was in store for me but once I started reading I was off. I expected a somewhat hack and slash style to it but instead the The King’s Bastard combines several elements directly to my liking. Featuring fast-paced action sword-fighting and to top it off a very intricate struggle for survival. The latter part was immaculately carried out.
One important feature that I liked about the King’s Bastard was the introduction into the world. The world of The Kings Bastard is divided into three continents: Rolencia (where the castle of Rolen stands), Merofynia (the other kingdom) and Snow Bridge which lies between Rolencia and Merofynia, Ostron Isle (a neutral party…) and finally the Utland Isles. There have been fierce battle between Rolencia and Merofynia in the past and both countries are always on the lookout for raiding parties coming from the Utland Isles. But also in the past a truce was made between Rolencia and Merofynia where King Rolen was politically married Myrella, the daughter of the Merofynian King. Though they have been wed for some time, there is still a friction between the two countries and is to a certain extent translated to Rolen and Myrella. This is noticeable throughout the first few pages but to my surprise there was a excellent plot twist at the end with the intentions made clear of Lence and what he was plotting…
Starting the book off with a scene where you get to meet up with Lence and Byren, twins and sons of Rolen the King, fighting with an Affinity beast. A direct plunge into action but also questions started to boil up for me about the whole Affinity part. Next to Lence and Byren the other children of King Rolen and Queen Myrella are a third son Fyn and a daughter Piro. The royal family was in my opinion quite a scene. Even in the earlier parts of the book the family felt divided. Rolen the King favouring his son Lence, the Kingsheir, over Byren. And Myrella favouring Byren over Lence. AND Piro and Fyn fall a bit outside this due to their Affinity, Fyn more than Piro. This division between family members progresses more and more as lies and truths surface in the royal court. This political intrigue plays an important part in the plot line and was carried out in a neat way, keeping me hooked to know what was lurking around each corner. Betrayal? Lies? Assassination attempts?
The King’s Bastard is the first book in a trilogy, in some books there is a rush to introduce many new aspects in too small a volume. The book itself is 640 pages, but with the fast overall pacing it felt like 200 pages only, however I did not got the feeling that I missed out on anything. On the contrary, the storyline that is built up is logical, and as I mentioned already there is not a dull moment in the book. The combination of a easy but excellent writing style and keeping me interested made it very enjoyable to read. It is hard to describe but everything just flowed into each other very well, going from the first scenes with Byren to his brothers and sister, to a trial for Fyn till the final revelation of Lence and much much more.
But what would a divided court be without a third part whispering in ones ear to spread lies? Well this third party was not lacking at all. I took me a few backtracking to get a grips on who would be it. As I went through my list of finding out whom it could be for most of the characters I couldn’t find it out, the evidence and actions just didn’t add up. Okay there was one person insisting Rolen and Lence… concrete evidence was just lacking. I found this third party most enjoyable especially when I found out who exactly made everything up in the end… You just don’t know who you can and cannot trust. Brilliant.
Then there is just one aspect left. Affinity. As I said before, Lence and Byren were hunting an Affinity beast, magical beasts. However Affinity is not only limited to beasts. I already got the gist of what Affinity can do to people and what people can do with Affinity, for better and for worse… It was nice to read about a magic that remains for most part obscure and is not shown that flashy, but you know that it is there. And allowing the “magic” side of the story not to draw the attention away from the major plot.
There is so much more The King’s Bastard, that if I would continue I would reveal too much of the story. So in short. The King’s Bastard is in my opinion a must read for fantasy fans. It shows a great world, a country in struggle, magical creatures, great characters and brawling action.
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