Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Uncrowned King

by Rowena Cory Daniells


Rolenhold is in turmoil for the second part of this royals-and-magic high fantasy. The young princess Piro is in hiding as her father's enemies threaten the castle from outside its walls and whisper treason within them. Her brother Fyn is on the run with a small group of boys from the Abbey, fleeing for their lives. And Byren is staggering through the snow with a mortal wound, stalked by enemy soldiers and wild beasts.

In The Uncrowned King everything is going sinkingly for the rightful heirs to the throne, thanks to a brutally ambitious warlord and a prophecy or two of doom. This keeps up the tension established in the first book as the main characters plunge from one danger to another. For Piro the threat is often of discovery: if she's not hiding her Affinity magic she's disguising herself or hiding away. It's a less frenzied battle for survival than the kinds of predicaments Byren usually finds himself in. The older son always seems to be fighting bloodily for his life in one way or another, and his escapes and recoveries are sometimes a little too miraculous to be believable.

Byren, Fyn and Piro are each to varying degrees preoccupied with guilt over what has happened to their country and their family. Byren is in more of a funk of despair than most, feeling he can't possibly succeed in the way people expect him to. We see the story from the point of view of these three characters, and as well as their shared royal status they're also similar in personality. They're brave, regular characters who would be nondescript if it weren't for their exalted position in society and a sprinkling of magical or fighting ability. These qualities make them particularly likeable and easy to root for.

In this story we get a closer look at their adversaries, and some are more convincing than others. Palatyne is a paranoid brute, cruel and destructive and almost a fantasy villain caricature. But his magic user Dunstany is more complicated and interesting, and there's a lot going on in the enemy's camp. Even the treacherous cousin Cobalt shows signs of looking for redemption, although we can't be sure he isn't putting on another act.

This is an absorbing book that plunges readers into its snowy world of swords, sorcery and backstabbing at court. In this novel The Chronicles of King Rolen's Kin are shaping up to be a solid, dependable fantasy rather than anything daringly different. However, although Rowena Cory Daniells isn't rewriting the rules of epic fantasy this adventure still has the rush of ice skating downhill and heaps of gore-stained intrigue.

3rd April 2012

Book Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Books


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4 star rating

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