A debut novel sets the stage for a war between two great factions.
Taher’s story explores the pre-industrial fantasy kingdom of Widea, governed by King Matthew. In Matthew’s tumultuous youth, his father, King Kendrick, dies and leaves him suffocated under the control of a regency council. Matthew is vexed that a single neighboring tribe—the Prouds, descended from their legendary ancestor, The Proud, and following their Leader, Addison—will not submit to his rule. Though Matthew wishes to invade neighboring tribal lands and use the income from annexing them to reduce his people’s tax burden, his regents remain stubbornly conservative. Finally, with the aid of an ambitious military officer, he kills his regents and effectively conquers his own kingdom at the age of 16. While revenge breaks his heart, he still moves forward with his ambitions against the Prouds—not reckoning with his own inexperience and that of his armies or with the might of Jarvis, son of Leader Addison and a deadly knight. But as the tide of war turns against Jarvis and the Prouds, they become divided in their purpose: should they carry on in their struggle to defy Matthew, risking everything, or make peace and at last bow to an overlord from a rival land? The story is broad in focus, with numerous characters. Jarvis, the ostensible protagonist, does not truly enter the narrative until halfway through the book. (The first half is essentially the story of Matthew’s early life and career.) Unfortunately, the large cast is drawn in simple strokes and needs greater depth and complexity. The author has apparently mastered at least two languages, and while this is admirable, the text is often inelegant and lacks fluidity. (For example: “His loud words were very harsh on the commander because he loved the king so much. Besides, he was not used to being treated so harshly even by King Kendrick, who was much older than him, let alone that king, who was much younger than him.”) Overall, the book remains a worthy first effort but lacks polish.
A straightforward, somewhat awkward fantasy epic about a determined monarch and a dangerous knight.