Rules of Ascension – David B. Coe

About the Book:

The first book in a projected quartet, Rules of Ascension, revolves around a brutal murder and a falsely accused young prince. Tavis, the duke’s nephew, is violent, selfish, and cruel. Under the kingdom’s rules of ascension, Tavis is next in line — after his father — to be king. But when he gets his Fating (a rite-of-passage glimpse into the future), Tavis sees himself not on the throne but in a dungeon. In his rage, he insults the fortune teller, a pale-skinned, white-haired Qirsi named Grinsa, and stabs his best friend. When he is found drunk in a room with his betrothed lying dead next to him with his dagger in her heart, his Fating comes true.

Although the end of this book  is satisfying, it is just the beginning of a much larger story involving intrigue, assassins, magic, and war. 


I picked this book up randomly from the library. I was wandering around the shelves and saw the guy on the cover and thought, “huh, he’s oddly white…” This sealed the deal. I had to learn more about the abnormally white guy on the cover (isn’t my thought process fascinating?). It was rather exciting to pick up a book I had never heard of and knew nothing about. The experience paid off. I didn’t have high hopes for this book, but it ended up pleasantly surprising me.
Coe takes his time setting up a rich and intricate world. For the first third of Rules of Ascension, this tedious attention to detail and world building is almost a hindrance to the overall plot rather than a boon. There are no real sides to the conflict, and furthermore the reader spends much of this part of the book wondering what the conflict even is. While the world is rich, deftly built and incredibly vibrant, the plot somewhat falters because of the lack of clear direction. Furthermore, characters slip in and out of the pages fluidly, not really staying in the book long enough to attract attention or really make much of an impression.
It doesn’t take long to realize that this rather unique way to start a book actually, over time, works in the favor of Rules of Ascension. Coe uses the overall ambiguity of the plot and characters at the start in his favor, lending the world and the overall conflict an ominous gray aura that the book really shines from. Where many books have obvious black and white sides regarding plot conflicts, Coe’s attention to detail and intricate world building coupled with the slow boil of his plot work nicely together to insure that the reader can find someone or something to relate to, no matter what side of the conflict they are reading about. Coe really accomplished something by doing this that many authors strive for, but never quite attain.
The detailed world building, complete with unique cultures and traditions really makes this book pop and spirals it to an “epic” category. The world is vast and the peoples are very well thought out. The magic system, however, was what got my interest the most. It made sense within the context of the world and somehow managed to be both complex but understated at the same time.
As I’ve mentioned above, the plot isn’t straightforward. The reader will spend about a third of the book not knowing exactly what the problem is, or if there are even protagonists. This may be frustrating to many, but if you read this section of the book and absorb the detailed world building, the rest of the book, when the plot really takes off, will leave you on the edge of your seat. As with many things, you have to pay a little before you get your reward and the reward with Rules of Ascension is well worth the wait. The complex, gray plot and multi faceted characters easily make up for the slow start. The ending is well done and nicely hints at an expanding plot in further books.
Coe’s writing isn’t over the top. He somehow manages to be detailed and descriptive without being flowery. This is another benefit to the book as a whole. Rules of Ascension already has so much happening in it on so many different levels that overly descriptive prose would bog the book down rather than lifting it up. Coe managed to toe a very thin line in that regard.
All in all I really enjoyed Rules of Ascension and am quite surprised that this series hasn’t raised more of a fuss among fans of epic fantasy. The beginning is rather slow, but the world building is quite well done. Once the plot really takes root the book is almost impossible to put down. Coe’s writing nicely compliments his complex world and plot. If it’s any hint as to the quality of the rest of the series, Coe really has birthed something amazing here.
4/5 stars

** I apologize for not editing this review before posting it. Using my computer is VERY painful due to my back (which is why I haven’t been writing much recently). This review took the better part of the day to write, and now that I’ve written it I just don’t have it in me to tediously fix all the stuff I’m sure is wrong with it. It’s embarrassing, but I hurt and I’m proud I got it this far. I hope none of my readers mind. ** 

5 Responses

  • D-man

    Nice review! I've looked at buying this book a few times, but I was always on the fence about it. Based on your review, I think I might give it a shot!

  • Sarah (Bookworm Blues)

    I hope you like it!

  • Heloise

    Oooh, that does sound interesting – from your description it reminds me somewhat of Kate Elliot's Crossroads trilogy which was one of my favourite reads last year, which also takes its time to develop its plot (the reader is completely in the dark to what's really going on for the whole first volume of the trilogy) and moves very slowly – but which (at least for me) never impeded my enjoyment of the books, because they are so very well written, the worldbuilding is fascinating and she has some of the best characterization this side of Sarah Monette's Doctrine of Labyrinths.

    Anyway… *clears her throat* …very nice review, I'm definitely going to check out Rules of Ascension a.s.a.p.

  • Anonymous

    I loved this book and am in search of Volume two, Seeds of Betrayal. Found my copy of Volume one, Winds of the Forelands, at the local library. It is well written and I enjoyed the "slowness" (I prefer all the details). Wish me luck! Jo Anne

  • Anonymous

    Very good review, pretty much exactly what I though of the book. And my friend and I were walking through the library looking for random books, and Grinsa(at least I think that's him?) on the cover was what really got me interested.

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