The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons – REVIEW
What if you weren’t the hero?
Kihrin grew up on tales of long-lost princes and grand quests – despite being raised in a brothel, making money as a musician and street thief. One day he overreaches by targeting an absent noble’s mansion, hunting for jewels. There he witnesses a prince performing a terrifying dark-magic ritual. Kihrin flees but he’s marked by a demon and his life will never be the same again.
That night also leads to him being claimed as a lost son of that prince’s royal house. But far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family’s power plays and ambitions. He must also discover why his murderous father finds Kihrin more valuable alive than dead. Soon Kihrin attempts to escape his relative’s dangerous schemes but finds himself in far deeper waters.
He becomes tangled in a plot to kill the Emperor, rob the Imperial Vaults, claim a god-slaying sword and free bound demons to wreak havoc across the land. Kihrin also discovers the old tales lied about many things: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love – and the hero always winning. But maybe Kihrin isn’t fated to save the empire. He’s destined to destroy it.
“I’m Talon. I’ll be your murderer tonight.”
I first heard of this book via Goldsboro Books who announced they were doing a signed and numbered limited edition with sprayed edges. I immediately requested a copy from Tor books and they kindly obliged by sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The Ruin of Kings is the first book in an epic fantasy series, with five books currently planned.
As with many fantasy books, this one has a sprawling and complex web of relationships. There’s a very helpful glossary, pronunciation guide and family tree included but it does contain some spoilers. I found myself making notes as I read just to keep track of who all the characters were and how they were related to each other. The ability of a few characters to soul-swap definitely added to the confusion. I was jarred out of the action a few times as I tried to unravel who was being talked about and their relationship to other characters. At one point, a character quips “you might want to draw up a chart” and it certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea.
“No matter what happens, no matter what chains you wear, you decide if you are free. No one else.”
However, once you’ve grasped the basic character relationships, the epic action and incredible world-building sweeps you away. The narrative is framed as a record of a conversation between two of the main characters, Kihrin and Talon, with hilarious and snarky footnotes by Thurvishar D’Lorus. The humour in this book was brilliant and exactly my favourite blend of sarcasm, irreverence and snarkiness. Part one of the story is told in a dual narrative with Kihrin relating the most recent events and Talon discussing Kihrin’s past. The timelines eventually converge at the beginning of part two.
The story opens with Kihrin imprisoned so the reader knows his plans go wrong which only increases the tension. The story quickly picked up pace thanks to the political machinations that underpinned most of the action. Issues such as slavery, racism, sexism, rape, and misogyny are all touched on and explored in a nuanced manner. It was definitely thought-provoking at times and I love the ability fantasy has to make you question contemporary society.
“Real evil, insidious evil, is what lets us just walk away from another person’s pain and say, well, that’s none of my business.”
The protagonist Kihrin is brave, reckless and quick-witted. He’s fundamentally good and fair, with a backstory that is slowly revealed. I adored his character and can’t wait to read what happens to him next. There were so many fantastic characters, from the mimic Talon, to the cruel Darzin D’Mon, the complex Tyentso, and the confident Teraeth. Each one engaged my interest and ensured the storyline never dragged.
As you can tell from my rambling review, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the sequel. I’ve obviously pre-ordered the Goldsboro special edition and would urge you to buy one if you’re tempted as it’s limited to 500 copies. The only reason I’ve rated this four and a half stars was because the complicated genealogy sometimes disrupted my enjoyment of the narrative.
Release Date: 07 February 2019