Science fiction and fantasy
The King's Bastard
by Rowena Cory Daniells
The kingdom of Rolencia seems like a small and provincial place, bordering on a wilderness, and its young royals appear for the most part quite humble. I didn't get the impression of them living in a grand palace at the heart of a bustling Empire. They don't have very many hangers-on or minions, which makes them seem vulnerable and alone. This is especially true for Fyn, the third son, who has been sent away to a monastery because of his weak Affinity. Fyn is bullied and caught in the middle of a power game for control of the monastery. He doesn't know which path he'll take through the ranks, and whether he should study with the weapons master or they mystics master or someone else. But career choices may be the least of his worries because some of the monks may not be above assassination and his royal blood makes him a target.
Then there's Piro, the youngest of the king's children at 13. She wants her freedom and she doesn't want to have to grow up and endure the responsibilities and restrictions of being a princess. At first this makes her seem childish and self-centred. But she's another one with a dangerous secret, and soon enough she grows a backbone and some spirit. The main characters are likeable, and to some extent they're everymen in spite of their royalty. They're rounded, honest and brave, but not always perfect so it's easy to identify with them and get on their side. This is just as well since there's a lot of rooting for them to be done. Threats come at them from all angles, thick and fast. It seems like everyone within the castle has a secret or a scheme, whilst outside its walls no-one can travel a day without encountering beasts, raiders, rough terrain or other possibilities for violent ends. This makes The King's Bastard a wild, boisterous adventure.
However it's also quite an involving story, not so much for the mysteries of who is up to mischief as for its developing characters. The bad guys aren't impossible to spot but they do have a few tricks up their sleeves. Rowena Cory Daniells' world should appeal to fans of Robin Hobb and Trudi Canavan with its snowbound halls and its intimate, brutal world of warring nobles. It's a strange and wondrous high fantasy realm I thoroughly enjoyed getting into.
14th February 2012
If you like this, try:Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
The second instalment of the Farseer Trilogy follows FitzChivalry's adventures at court.
The Novice by Trudi Canavan
The second book in the Black Magician Trilogy.
The Way Of Shadows by Brent Weeks
A young man becomes an assassin to escape a life of poverty. But can he bear to leave all his friends behind?
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