Paul Kearney has been described by some as a master of military fantasy and by me as an author who can combine the best parts of fantasy “with grit and realism an enough blood to drown a horse.” These facts – as I believe they are facts – are brought to a head in the final book in ‘The Macht’ series, ‘Kings of Morning’.
Authors note – yes, I’m quoted on the back of the book (and on the inside), but that publicity does not affect my ability to review impartially.
One of the notable exceptions to fantasy stereotypicality that Paul Kearney expresses in his writing is a complete disregard of the passage of time; you either catch up quickly to where he’s brought us back in, or you don’t. He doesn’t coddle the reader through every moment and passage of time, but rather jumps as he feels is necessary. This can be a detriment to the continuity of a story, as entire storylines and facts are left missing and simply assumed, when in fact a lot of time has passed and the reader may have in fact forgotten them.
The Kings of Morning starts at some point after ‘Corvus’ – the second book in the series – and thirty years after ‘The Ten Thousand’. Corvus, Rictus, and the Macht are over the sea and marching towards the Great King with one goal in mind; to place Corvus on the throne through conquest.
There was a lot that I had forgotten since I had finished the second book and nowhere near enough time to reread, so I often felt as if I was catching up.
Another difference in this book – I think – was the surprising lack of battle. Kings of Morning spent a great deal more time talking and walking than previous books did – I think – and the few battles you do get are over very quickly.
The major battle is as well written, dirty, and realistic in the ease with which death can come, as all the previous books Kearney has written. You feel the mud beneath your toes and the churning terror that rolls through the stomachs of those in the front of the spear line. But this story was much more about the memories and thoughts of old men watching younger men walk in their shoes.
I was left feeling that Kearney has not fully finished with this world, but that could as easily be a storytellers safeguard as any consciously wrought plan. Still, I would be happy to see more from Corvus and his new empire.
Death comes easily in a Kearney book. Nobody is excused the end of a spear or blade, except maybe Rictus who – having read all three books now – stands up as the one character who Kearney maybe set apart to survive. Characters that you immediately fall in love with or root-for are left rotting on the ground with very little preamble or memory.
The Kings of Morning may not be the greatest in this series of books, but it is an able conclusion to a wonderful story of a nations rise from barbarism.
Review by Joshua S Hill
Paul Kearney was born in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, in 1967. He went to a local grammar school, and then to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he read Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, and Middle English. Shortly after leaving Oxford, he [...]
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