Review | Kingshold – D.P. Woolliscroft

About the Book

Mareth is a bard, a serial under achiever, a professional drunk, and general disappointment to his father. Despite this, Mareth has one thing going for him. He can smell opportunity. The King is dead and an election for the new Lord Protector has been called. If he plays his cards right, if he can sing a story that will put the right person in that chair, his future fame and drinking money is all but assured. But, alas, it turns out Mareth has a conscience after all.

Neenahwi is the daughter to Jyuth, the ancient wizard who founded the Kingdom of Edland and she is not happy. It’s not just that her father was the one who killed the King, or that he didn’t tell her about his plans. She’s not happy because her father is leaving, slinking off into retirement and now she has to clean up his mess.

Alana is a servant at the palace and the unfortunate soul to draw the short straw to attend to Jyuth. Alana knows that intelligence and curiosity aren’t valued in someone of her station, but sometimes she can’t help herself and so finds herself drawn into the Wizard’s schemes, and worst of all, coming up with her own plans.

Chance brings this unlikely band together to battle through civil unrest, assassinations, political machinations, pirates and monsters, all for a common cause that they know, deep down, has no chance of succeeding – bringing hope to the people of Kingshold.

506 pages
Published on April 17, 2018
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I’m a big sucker for books that start simple and then wallop me with all their complexities, and that’s what I got with Kingshold. In fact, I wasn’t sure what I was going to end up with when I started reading the book. For those of you who are in the “covers don’t sell books” camp, it’s literally the cover art that sold this book to me. I saw it and thought, “I need to know more.” 

In truth, the cover art is very indicative of the book itself, and not just for the obvious reasons (hello, it is the cover of the book). On the cover you get the scene of this city, this vast, sprawling place. It looks huge. And yet, from the way the light is played with, the focus is instantly drawn to this palatial complex. It dominates the scene, and somehow makes the cover both sprawling and intimate at the same time. 

I feel like that’s a pretty good description for the book itself.

You start out with a pretty typical epic fantasy scene. A king and queen have been killed. Where this could cause conflict with many, in this book, a lot of people seem pretty pleased with that fate. Jyuth, an ancient wizard who reportedly committed this crime, has decided he’s pretty over deciding who is in power and thus, an election is called. The people of Kingshold shall, in essence, decide their own fate. 

This, right away, intrigued me. There are a lot of empires and a lot of empire building in epic fantasy but precious few epic fantasy books involve elections. I am nothing if not a sucker for taking a turn off the beaten path. I will say, if you don’t find politics and machinations interesting, this might not be the book for you. However, for me, I really enjoyed how Woolliscroft took something that might sound mundane and about as exciting as watching a tax accountant work, and turned it into a story that was pulse-pounding and addicting. The author’s clever use of class differences, as well as characters that are positioned in a way to give readers a bird’s eye view of a surprising array of cultural norms and life in this area was nothing short of genius.

The story is told through numerous points of view, and I was pleased to find them all with distinct voices and easy to tell apart. Some of them will appeal to you more than others, but that’s just the way it rolls. Even the characters that didn’t appeal to me quite as much were stunningly wrought. Their individual stories arc very well over the course of the novel, and I was really intrigued by how Woolliscroft made their personalities contrast and play off each other. 

This is a dark book, and while I do think there are some points that could have used a bit more editing (some dialogue felt… stilted), I loved how Woolliscroft seemed to balance that darkness with a bit of something more. Not quite hope, but perhaps it was the understated, even occasionally caustic humor in some of the characters that worked for me, and added just enough levity and humanity into some of these tension-filled moments to make them really resonate and matter as I read. 

And that’s really the thing with Kingshold that astounded me. It started out sort of small scale, a bit predictable, and then it took a hard turn off the predictable epic fantasy path and the ball started rolling down the hill. Before I realized what was happening, I’d read the entire book and was hurriedly downloading the second one on my Kindle Unlimited. Mixed with all of this, was some truly wonderful worldbuilding and some intriguing use of magic. There are a few tropes here, ancient wizards being one of them, but the way Woolliscroft dealt with said tropes made them feel fresh and new, and completely his own. 

Kingshold is a seriously solid start to a series I cannot wait to follow. The writing is descriptive enough to bring the world, plot, and characters alive without ever going overboard. The characters all feel as individual as Woolliscroft obviously meant them to be (which is no small feat). The book itself is paced perfectly. Once things get going, it’s hard to predict where they will end up. 

As far as this book goes, I absolutely loved how the author played with his themes, and how he took something I first anticipated would be a fairly typical empire-building epic fantasy, and turned it into something completely different. I was left reeling, and gasping for breath. Woolliscroft did a marvelous job playing up civil unrest, playing elements against each other, and if some parts of the book felt a little predictable, it was easy to forgive. The story itself was just so well done. I was truly captivated from the first page.

If you’re looking for a bit of a different spin on epic fantasy, you really should check out Kingshold. It’s one of the best first books in a series I’ve read in quite a while. I’ve been a bit burnt out on epic fantasy, to be honest. This book breathed new life into the genre for me. I cannot wait to find out what happens next.

4/5 stars

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