Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The God King - James A. West

   2013; 350 pages.  Book 1 (out of 4) in the “Heirs of the Fallen” series.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Dark Fantasy; Sword & Sorcery.  Overall Rating : 5½*/10.

    When you’re a mercenary, a job’s just a job.  Some are deadlier than others, some require additional personnel, but in the end, it’s all about the money.

    For the hired sword, Kian Valara, his present employment is boring, but lucrative.  A  young, foppish noble, Prince Varis Kilvar, has hired him, along with 60+ other mercenaries (mostly ninjas) to protect him as he goes traipsing around, looking for some decrepit temple he thinks hides some sort of magic source of power.  And why?  Because an ancient book, and a voice inside the prince’s head, have said so.  But the bodyguard job pays well, and that makes it a worthwhile business venture.

    Right now, the band of guardians are sitting around, waiting for the prince to reemerge from some run-down hovel he thinks might be the temple.  Yawn.  Kian and his cohorts checked it out before the prince entered, and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but Varis has been in there an hour now.  What’s he found that’s so time-consumingly interesting?

    But then the place erupts in a blinding flash of fire, blue bolts of electricity zap Kian into unconsciousness, and a naked, hairless, albino-hued being emerges from the rubble with black blood streaming from a gash in its forehead.  Is that Varis?  What's happened to him?

    Hmm.  In hindsight, maybe Kian should’ve passed on this job opportunity.

What’s To Like...
    The God King is written in a story-driven style.  The action starts immediately and never lets up.  Indeed, I got the impression the author consciously strove to do this.  The book opens abruptly, with Kian and company in mid-adventure on Prince Varis’s quest.  Some Amazon reviewers didn’t like this, but I thought it worked just fine.

    There are 55 chapters covering 350 pages, so there’s always a convenient place to stop.  Our heroes move around a lot, and James A. West spends a lot of time of the geography of the world he’s built.  The God King screams for a map, but alas, there isn't any.

    I liked the magic system.  Whether used for good or evil, the energy needed isn’t free.  Want to raise someone from the dead?  You’ll have to drain it from some nearby living organism.

    There’s a budding romance, and at least one sex scene.  But this is not a romance novel, and that’s a plus for me.  The cover image references an incident from Chapter 5 (8% Kindle), and I thought the artist captured the scene expertly.  I liked some of the phrases used, including “dribs and drabs”, and the euphemistic cuss-phrase “by Memokk’s stones!”

    The God King is both a self-contained story and an introduction to the 4-book series.  This is a completed series, and AFAIK, James A. West has no plans to add any more books to it.

Kewlest New Word ...
Trull (n, archaic) : a prostitute.
Others : skirling (v.).

    “Master, forgive me.”
    Varis frowned.  “For what?”
    Uzzret scanned his sandaled feet as if trying to find the answer.  “For … for displeasing you?” he said, making it into a question.
    Varis did not have time to coddle the man.  “We must prepare to depart this heap of blasted stones.  Assemble my chosen.”
    “M-master?”  Uzzret stammered, his old bones shaking.  “Are we not all your chosen?”
    I liked him terrified better than fawning, Varis considered.  (loc. 1779)

    “I am doing what I am doing because I am burdened to be the only man who can,” Kian answered darkly.  “What’s more, I go for her sake, as well as yours, Hazad’s, and everyone else who Varis would conquer.  I must abandon her feelings.  To carry them would be a distraction I cannot afford to have when I face Varis.”  Such, Kian admitted only to himself, was easier said than done.  It pained him greatly to anger or worry Ellonlef.
    Hazad dribbled the last of his jagdah in his upturned mouth, swiped his lips with the back of his hand.  “If Varis cuts your heart out, or burns you alive, can I have your sword?”  (loc. 4025)

Kindle Details...
    The God King sells for $5.99 at Amazon, as do the other three books in the series, and as do all of James A. Wests’ e-books for that matter.  You can also buy the Heirs of The Fallen series as a bundle, for $9.99, which is a considerable savings.   

“Big and dumb and quick to obey – best qualities for any man.”  (loc. 4262)
     There were some issues.  Firstly, the action-driven writing style comes at the cost of character development.  Everyone you meet is either “black” or “white”; there are no “gray” ones.  I like the people I meet in books I'm reading to be gray.

    Secondly, while the storyline is action-packed, there aren’t really any twists to it.  Our heroes head straight to the lair of the Ultimate Evil (“UE”), who is aware of their approaching, yet chivalrously waits for them to arrive.  The resolution of the storyline involves WTFs (instead of the UE killing our hero – didn’t he ever watch an Austin Powers movie? - he leaves him in a poorly guarded jail), and at least one deus ex machina (must there always be a secret entrance to the UE’s palace?).  There were enough of these literary devices that I never really got the feeling that Kian and his pals were ever in any danger of perishing from the series.

    Finally, there are some telling/showing issues, although I must add that the writing seemed to improve markedly as the book went along.

    5½ Stars.  The drawbacks made me wonder – would The God King be better as a YA novel?  Not much would have to be removed (the one sex scene, perhaps) and frankly, if the target audience were teenage boys, they wouldn’t care that all the characters are black-&-white.  They just want lots of action.  Even better, what about making this a graphic novel?  In that case, all those issues fade away.

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