The Eye of Valeria by TR Rankin

I thought the plot was actually pretty good, with some nice twists along the way.
The Eye of Valeria book cover

What does it mean to be a king? Is it a thing ordained by the gods, or to be seized with an iron fist? Or, is it something else entirely, something visceral to a man himself that makes him a king? And what happens to the man when that crown is taken away? Balazar, a Valerian, is such a man. At the age of fifteen this heir to the throne of Valeria is stripped of his very identity when his city is sacked by the power-mad regicide, Fantar. Fleeing with his life, and living under an assumed name, Balazar begins a fifteen-year struggle for revenge, as Fantar ravages city after city all around the Inland Sea.

The Valerian Empire is torn by war, with all but one of its former royal family remaining, Valerius. Sadly, Valerius is not a lucky man. His past failures haunt him still, all his attempts to regain a foothold in the war proven futile. Fortunately he’s not finished just yet and he finds himself putting everything on the line for one last shot at success. The fact that he arrived at the place he was meant to be because of a shipwreck and an irreversible passage in previously unknown land should definitely not be mentioned.

The Eye of Valeria tells us about Valerius’ ascendancy to heroism, his drive to become a giant among dwarves. He succeeds at that last part quite literally. His shipwreck lands him in Kantar, a land inhabited by two warring tribes, one of which is about waist-high. Valerius, or Balazar as he calls himself, finds himself caught up in their war and tries his hardest to put his past behind him. He does not succeed. The two tribes act in mysterious ways and seem to have an unnatural lack of culture...

This makes the events appear rather odd at first, but as the story progresses you’ll find that it all does make sense, in a way. The two tribes have a very complicated and peculiar relationship, and as the hints begin to stack you can start making sense of why they behave so unnaturally. I thought the plot was actually pretty good, with some nice twists along the way. In general I didn’t find the story all that impressive though, since there was no real drive to keep on reading which is definitely an important aspect of a novel. It’s only towards the end that the road gets rougher and the story gets interesting. Still waters make for smooth sailing but it’s only during the storm that true character is shown.

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