“Rolencia’s ancestry enemy, Merofynia, has invaded and marches on King Rolen’s castle. Powerless to help, thirteen yeard old Piro watches as her father, King Rolen, listens to poisoned whispers against Bryen. How could the King doubt his second son? Determined to prove his loyalty, Bryen races across the path of the advancing army to ask the Abbot to send the warriors monks in defence of the castle.”
One nice thing about reading a series back-to-back and reviewing fast is that I can refer to my last review of The King’s Bastard as if it was the first half of this one, just as the books themselves read like two parts of one whole. I’d much rather have seen these first two books as one complete volume, as to me that would have made much more sense. I understand the commercial need to serialise, it’s just..in an ideal world..
The ending of The King’s Bastard felt unnaturally chopped and incomplete, but picking up this one straight away and diving in right where the first book left off was really satisfying. I read that when these were originally published there was a 4 week gap in-between the books, and even just that short wait would have driven me absolutely batty.
If, like me, you enjoyed the first book you’ll enjoy this one just as much. It’s another healthy dose of the same fast-paced, character-driven, small-scale fantasy fun. All the same positives from the first book are present, and the negative of the constant repetition is there too, unfortunately. This repetition has something of a cumulative effect in terms of annoyance for me, it’s still heavily outweighed by the good stuff, but it just..rankles. Time and again we hear the characters expressing the same concerns, how glad Fyn is that Piro is safe at Rolenhold for example, or how concerned Byren is that by bringing the monks he proves himself loyal, or what a good job the healer did on him, how much he regrets comparing Orrade to Lence, and on and on. It just gets more and more noticeable. I’m not sure if the repetitions are there because Daniells genuinely worries that readers will forget what’s going on (really, we’re fine!) or whether they’re a word count bumper. A minor annoyance in book one continues and has grown into a major annoyance for me in book two. Aside from characters constantly rehashing their concerns, there are also issues of the same phrasing being repeated, sometimes just in the following paragraph…”It was but the work of a moment” is one that springs to mind. And I’ve found myself repeating that one a few times at work today as it’s got into my head!
Repetitious niggles aside, I thoroughly enjoyed continuing my journey with Bryen and co. Piro grows stronger and more central as a character in The Uncrowned King, and although she still makes several daft choices she actually shows herself to be much wiser and calmer than her brothers, who endlessly run around getting everything wrong. The action gets very much like a soap opera in many places, and in fact I think that’s completely the appeal here. Is there a fantasy equivalent for the term ‘Space Opera’? because I think that’s the kind of term I’m struggling for here. Even though things seem a little farcical at times, you absolutely have to know what happens because you care about the characters. So you ‘tune in’, and whilst Fantasy purists may well feel that this isn’t the most ambitious or ground-breaking of series, there’s no denying that it’s engaging, addictive and a whole lot of fun. And there’s a massive amount of value in those qualities which can often be overlooked, IMHO.
I completely neglected to mention the awesomeness of the Affinity Beasts in the first book. In book two, it’s awesomeness plus plus, as we get to spend more time with the Ulfr pack, and meet some other unexpected delights of the animal kingdom along the way. If you like your magical beasties, you’ll have fun with this series.
The relationship between Bryen and Orrade is just starting to get interesting here, and I’m looking forward to seeing if/how that develops further. I’m also dying to find out Dunstany’s true motivation. I haven’t been this immediately hooked into a series in years, and I’ll be jumping straight into the third book tonight.