A grand-scale historical fantasy set in the frigid wilds of the Black Kingdom, Carew’s stellar debut novel—about a young lord forced into a perilously complex situation after his father is killed in battle—is an action-packed and blood-splattered tour de force.
The Black Kingdom, inhabited by a race of giant warriors, lies in the northern reaches of the realm of Albion, separated from its enemies, the Sutherners, by a great river. The Sutherner populace is terrified of their neighbors to the north, who wear virtually impenetrable bone armor and are mythically long-lived. But when the legendary leader of the Black Kingdom—the Black Lord—is killed in battle and his 19-year-old son, Roper, is forced onto the throne, the entire kingdom is thrown into chaos. One of his father’s most revered soldiers, the war hammer–wielding Uvoren, wants the throne for himself—and will do anything to get it. As Suthern forces roam the Black Kingdom killing its residents and burning everything to the ground, Roper must maneuver his way through a treacherous political labyrinth, leading a society on the brink of civil war while also formulating a plan that will push the interlopers from the land. Quickly marrying into a respected family and gathering powerful allies strengthen Roper’s position, but the odds are still stacked against him. Featuring a memorable cast of (predominantly male) characters, exceptional worldbuilding, meticulously choreographed battle scenes, and relentless pacing, the narrative does has some minor flaws. The author’s strength in describing the Black Kingdom sometimes gets neglected in the novel’s later chapters as he focuses on the fight scenes, and the story arc revolving around the relationship between Roper and his wife is two-dimensional at best. The novel’s strengths, however, ultimately outweigh these weaknesses.
Carew is the real deal—an exciting new voice in fantasy.