Usually, when a new release is compared to Brandon Sanderson, John Gwynne, and Patrick Rothfuss, you’d expect it to be good, right? Or at least decent.
I was promised this: Uniting the worldbuilding of a Brandon Sanderson with the storytelling verve of a Patrick Rothfuss, debut author Jenn Lyons delivers an entirely new and captivating fantasy epic. Prepare to meet the genre’s next star.
Instead, I got the worst book I’ve read in a long time. I have 10 pages of highlights from 60% of the book and most of them are BAD!, so let’s get started!
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.
Disclaimer: *Thank you Pan Macmillan for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way.*
The story begins with Kihrin in prison, guarded by a demon – Talon. And she gives him a rock. Now! It is not an ordinary rock, it is magical! Look at it as an audio recording device.
She “asks” him to tell her his story.
From that point onward, they take turns speaking to this stone, telling different parts of the same story about Kihrin, one from 1st person told by Kihrin himself, and the other one from 3rd person told by Talon from memories of everyone she ate.
(I have to say that she is a rather bloodthirsty and hungry demon. Also, she seems quite obsessed with Kihrin).
There are a few comments on GoodReads saying that they found this type of narration confusing and unnecessarily complicated. I actually didn’t mind the two narrators and the fact that they spoke from different points of view didn’t bother me either.
What I had problems with was the THIRD narrator.
As if having two narrators was not enough, we were given another one – Thurvishar D’Lorus, who compiled this whole story and tried to add snarky remarks in the footnotes. Let me warn you, THERE ARE A LOT OF FOOTNOTES!
Thurvishar D’Lorus’s full account of the events that led up to the Burning of the Capital was written for His Majesty. In the very beginning, he apologizes for his detailed annotations, saying: “I pray your forbearance for when I lecture you on subjects on which you are the greater expert, but ultimately, I decided it safest to assume on your ignorance rather than the reverse.”
And now, let me give an example of the footnote:
- “Oh, how I lament the lack of education in the world. This is nothing but superstition.”
- The footnote to the sentence “The vané’s eyes glowed” says “One presumes not literally”,
- and to the sentence “Most folks assume it must be diamond. Hard as diamond anyway.”, there are TWO footnotes that say “It’s not diamond” and “Harder”.
Also, I find it hard to believe that His Majesty would need to be lectured on what demons are or given history lessons, especially when these remarks didn’t contribute to the story or to the general world building at all.
After dutifully reading all the footnotes for the first 30-40% of the books, I eventually gave up and completely skipped all of them.
I DNFed this book at 67% and I still have no idea what this book was all about. There was an orphan boy, yes. There was a prophecy that no-one cared to explain.
Kihrin sounded as lost as I was. He was constantly asking questions and didn’t receive any coherent answers.
“Taja, how did he find me? How did he know I was here? Why did he call me his little brother? And what did he mean about making you? He was going to fight you . . . how could he think he could fight a goddess—” She set a finger against my lips. “Now is not the time.”(to avoid minor spoils, I’ve replaced the name of the character with “he”)
There wasn’t a single character I liked. Definitely not Kihrin who in some scenes was portrayed as a good-hearted fellow and in the others as a snarky, haughty teenager with sassy attitudes. Maybe it was the author’s idea to give us a morally grey character, but I don’t think she quite figured out how to do that. We went from “oh, no, I can’t sleep with you” to literally sleeping with women twice his age.
And why is everyone so sexually obsessed?! In all Goodreads reviews, I read not a single person mentioned the amount of not-so-subtle sex references.
Here are just a few examples:
- “Kihrin?” She smiled at the young man. “Would you like to have me? If it would make you feel better, I would gladly—” “No!” Kihrin raised his head. “No. Please. I don’t—I can’t—” She frowned.
- “Are you coming?” Galen heard his father say loudly, but from an echoing distance. “Or do you enjoy playing with yourself in the dark?”
- Tyentso showed up at my room after dark. It wasn’t like that. In point of fact, I had a vané woman named Lonorin with me, whom Tyensto shoved out with a firm and impolite hand.
- “I wondered why you weren’t sleeping with any of the slave girls,” she commented. Kihrin’s head snapped back up. “You’ve been tracking that?”
- Unfortunately, she was soft and warm and clung to him in all the right ways, and Kihrin was more than a little drunk himself.
- Her baby boy was talking with the new dancer. To Ola’s surprise, the girl was still dressed. She hadn’t helped with the bath at all, which Ola thought strange…
- You’re not hard on the eyes. You should play.
Maybe you could justify a few of them, saying that Kihrin was raised in a brothel, surrounded by slaves, and these remarks were inevitable. But it didn’t sit well with me.
At the beginning of the story told by Kihrin, we are introduced to a slave auction, where Kihrin was awaiting his fate. His soul taken out and stored in a gaesh charm. Anyone who held this charm could command him to do anything they willed.
We were shown the idea of the world divided into three states – Life, Magic and Death, the existence of two veils that separated these states, and three Goddesses who watched over them.
However, after a very promising start, «The Ruin of Kings» turned out to be my first (and dare I say the biggest?!) disappointment of this year.
The story wasn’t good. The writing wasn’t good. The characters weren’t good. And after giving it a fair try, I decided it was time to stop torturing myself.
Have you read or heard about this book? Are you interested in picking it up? Let me know in the comments below!