This is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy. The next parts will be issued only a month apart which is a good thing because the King’s Bastard ends in a cliffhanger.
The author kindly offered me a review copy.
Rolencia and Merofyn are two kingdoms which are separated only by the Snow Mountains. Thirty years ago they finally made peace by marriage. Rolencia’s King Rolen married the then eight-year old Merofyn’s princess Myrelle. Rolencia has grown complacent and rich during the peace.
Now, their children are growing up and trouble stirs again in Rolencia. The twins Lence and Byren are respected warriors and their young brother Fyn is an acolyte who is about to become a monk. Their tomboy sister Piro is thirteen and already her parents are considering a political marriage for her.
Lence Kingheir is the first-born and the heir to the king. Byren Kingson is happy with this because he doesn’t want to become a ruler. When a renegade Affinity-user foretells that Byren’s going to kill his twin and become the king, he’s horrified and determines to undermine the prophecy. However, Byren’s best friend Orrade has been seriously hurt and the seer agrees to heal him. Unfortunately, when a person who has been tainted with Affinity, heals another, that other person might get Affinity as well. And in Rolencia the only fate that an Affinity tainted person has, is to go the monasteries and serve their country. Renegades are put to death or banished. To Byren’s horror, Orrade starts to show signs of having Affinity. Also, Orrade confesses that he is lover of men.
Byren is becoming very popular among the Rolencians and Lence starts to resent that. Also, it seems that they both are interested in the same young woman. A rift is growing between the twins. Sometimes Byren wishes that his life was as simple as Fyn’s or Piro’s.
The younger brother Fyn Kingson has Affinity and he was sent to the Halcyon monastery at the age of six. The monks are supposed be holy men dedicated to serving the summer goddess Halcyon who is the maiden, the mother, and the crone. However, inside the abbey the monks, acolytes, and even the masters vie for power in cruel ways. The current abbot is a just man but the faction against him is growing. Fyn is also bullied by four boys. His family wants him to become a weapons’ master so that he can lead the warrior monks on his brothers’ side. However, he’s gentle and detests violence, and would like to become a mystic but he knows that his Affinity isn’t strong enough.
Then a Renegade Power-worker prophesy that he will have to flee for his life and that worship of the goddess Halcyon will cease. Sometimes Fyn wishes his life was as simple as his brothers’.
Piro Kingdaughter is a tomboy but the Queen Myrella is determined to make a proper lady out of her. This means knowing the laws of the land, speaking three languages, and knowing the court etiquette all of which Piro resents. She’d love to go hunting or fighting like her brothers. She also has a huge secret; last autumn she discovered that she has Affinity. The female Power-workers are sent to the abbey of Sylion who is the cruel god of winter and snow. Piro loves summer and life, and she doesn’t want to be carted off to the abbey.
Then, she’s betrothed to a warlord whom she dislikes at first sight. Boy, does she wish her life was as uncomplicated as her brothers’!
To complicate matters more, Illien, Lord of the Cobalt House, comes to the court of Rolencia. Illien is Byren’s cousin and his father had been a royal bastard, but he’s now welcomed. He brings a tale of woe with him but soon, the royal siblings start to suspect that he’s scheming against them.
There are many familiar elements in the book: magic, which is illegal except when it’s tightly controlled, royal heir and his siblings, a tomboy who is supposed to act like a lady. And of course, the prophecy. Yet, Daniells tells a entertaining story at a fast pace.
The pacing was very good and really sucked me into the story. Pretty much the only time it didn’t work for me was near the end where Byren goes out on skates to deliver an urgent message to the Halcyon abbey. Except that in the very next chapter there’s a cut to the abbey where a rider has already brought the message. Then we return to Byren who is still trying to deliver it.
There’s a clear bond of love between the siblings and their mother. King Rolen is unfortunately a more remote figure. Yet, Fyn, Piro, and Byren are ready to sacrifice their careers or even their lives to protect their siblings and it shows in their interactions. They can also be angry with each other. Because of the tight bond between then, it’s painfully clear that Lence has been left out or he has distanced himself from the others. Unfortunately, I found it a bit unbelievable how far he was willing to go in the end.
All three are perhaps a little too do-gooders for real-life. Piro with her fears and naive selfishness is perhaps the most convincing character.
The world-building is very good. In Rolencia people with Affinity are feared and put to abbeys but apparently in other countries they aren’t treated that way. King Rolen’s father and brother were killed by a renegade Power-worker so he made harsh laws for them. There are also Affinity beasts such as manticores and unistags which were a nice touch.
Rolencia and Merofyn apparently have the most fertile lands while the warlords of the other places have more barren lands. There are also the Utlanders who live on barren islands and raid Rolencia every now and then.
The whole story happens in the middle of winter and the characters are almost always moving in deep snow or skating across frozen lakes.
This was a highly entertaining book and I’m looking forward to continuing the series.
Author’s website: http://king-rolens-kin.com/