Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The King's Heir

by Johan Pihl, Raphael Vasconceles, Gina Jenkins and Geoffrey Bonn


Not only is The King's Heir a book derived from a game, but it also has no less than four listed authors, even though it is not a collection of short stories. Neither of these facts bode well. Good books are rarely written by committee, and it's equally unusual for a game to translate well into book form.

Gidar is an eight-year-old apprentice under the protection of Yegesh, a priest. They live on the backwater island of Oldos, the kind of place where people rarely leave. Gidar's parents are unknown, and he sports a convict's tattoo on his back.

Gidar's peaceful existence is shattered one day when he is kidnapped by a crew of pirates. Led by Gekare, these outlaws lead him into a life of looting on the high seas. They also insist on calling him Aeth. It's the first of several abductions and name-changes.

Gekare is kind to Aeth and treats him as a favourite, but he's no less a pirate for that. But again Aeth is kidnapped, and taken to live a restrictive rich boy's life under the name of Bomus. The Peyel organisation is behind this. Peyel is led by the mysterious Gemlan, a man who seems to ooze evil from every pore. We don't see much of him, but Peyel is a brutal and powerful group that seems to be a law unto itself.

Whilst living as Bomus, Aeth gets a history lesson that gives us some obvious clues about his place in the scheme of things. He soon leaves to take up piracy and smuggling once more. But King Croilin gets the notion that Aeth the Seaweasel is a threat to his throne, and he takes steps to destroy Aeth. Never mind that the king's action will bring war and anarchy to his entire country.

The King's Heir is a pre-industrial pirate adventure set in another world, rather than a fantasy in the sense of a magical or supernatural story. Although the pace is fairly fast and there's plenty of action, it does go on in the same vein for too long. It seems like one fight or lucky escape after another. Whilst this may be an appropriate formula for a game, it isn't enough to sustain a novel.

The King's Heir lacks a unifying theme that would tie all of the action together. The characters are all very clichéd and one-dimensional. Even Aeth, the central character, seems to have no strategy beyond laying low and travelling to the capital to find out what he can. He's naive and not much of a leader, more like some boy who ended up in bad company. As a result this book is very hard to get into.

The dialogue is classic RPG-speak, full of dropped aitches and dodgy Olde Englishe lines: "An' wherefrom come ye, stranger." Nearly all the characters talk in this pirate yokel dialect, to the extent that it affects readability.

It's easy to see where The King's Heir has gone wrong. What would clearly work well as a game just doesn't have the depth that a good fantasy novel needs. Where you don't need very believable protagonists in a game, because you can see them or act in their place, on paper they need a great deal more fleshing out. And where the action in a game is often enough to keep you interested, in a novel constant action soon becomes repetitive and tiresome.

Book Details

Year: 2006

Categories: Books


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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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