The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons, #1)by Jenn Lyons Published 05 Feb 2019
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There are the old stories. And then there’s what actually happens.
Kihrin is a bastard orphan who grew up on storybook tales of long-lost princes and grand quests. When he is claimed against his will as the long-lost son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds that being a long-lost prince isn't what the storybooks promised.
Far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family's power plays and ambitions. He also discovers that the storybooks have lied about a lot of other things things, too: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love, and how the hero always wins.
Then again, maybe he’s not the hero, for Kihrin isn’t destined to save the empire.
He’s destined to destroy it . . .
Uniting the worldbuilding of a Brandon Sanderson with the storytelling verve of a Patrick Rothfuss, debut author Jenn Lyons delivers an entirely new and captivating fantasy epic. Prepare to meet the genre’s next star.
"The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons, #1)" Reviews
ARC provided by the publisher—Tor Books—in exchange for an honest review.
Convoluted and complex are probably understatements, but I don’t have any other words to describe the main attributes of this debut.
For those of you who don’t know, The Ruin of Kings have been the fantasy debut that Tor has been promoting heavily for several months now. This novel has been advertised as the debut of the year that’s targeted “For fans of George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, and Patrick Rothfuss”. I’ll be completely honest here, if any publisher or author decides to put all of these giant, super high profile fantasy authors’ references into a debut work by an unknown author, it seriously better be a masterpiece. I’m one of those readers who had their interest for this book sparked by that bold claim, and I jumped at the chance of reading and reviewing it early; expecting it to be a debut that will go down into my ‘best of all time’ lists. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
“A hero who has never had a bad thing happen to him isn’t a hero—he’s just spoiled.”
The Ruin of Kings is Jenn Lyon’s debut and it’s the first out of five books in A Chorus of Dragons series. The main story revolves around Kihrin, who in the present timeline is in jail retelling all the events that have happened to him which eventually led to his capture. Now, here’s where it immediately started to get complicated. Kihrin’s narration doesn’t begin from his actual beginning but halfway through his journey; the first half of Kihrin’s story is instead being narrated by his jailor—Talon. This means there are three main timeframes to follow. First is the present timeline in which Kihrin is in jail telling his story to Talon. Then, the second and third timelines—where the majority of the book takes place in—deal with Kihrin’s past. These chapters are told in a see-saw method, consecutively switching back and forth with each chapter progression in the first person (Kihrin’s narration) and third person (Talon’s narration) perspectives. There are also a lot of footnotes added by another character, because everything you read about Kihrin—in both timelines—was actually done in written format by this character. Not only the unconventional storytelling makes it very easy to lose focus on who’s who or what, many of the characters—and believe me, there are a lot of names to remember—have multiple nicknames, and also similar-sounding names. For example: Teraeth, Terindel, Therin, Tyentso, Kelindel, and Kelinos, just to name a few. To add even more confusion, there were also elements of body swapping, which meant some of the characters you encounter may not be who you think they are.
My main problem with all these is that even after finishing the whole story, it all feels like it was unnecessarily convoluted. I truly believe The Ruin of Kings would’ve been an amazing debut if it was told in a linear and chronological structure. Talon’s narration which began from Kihrin’s true beginning was so much more engaging than Kihrin’s narration due to its natural sense of story progression and characters’ development. Kihrin’s narration began halfway throughout his flashback. Think of it like this. When you’re reading a book, you start reading from the first page and flip through it one at a time. In The Ruin of Kings, not only do you start from the first page, but at the same time you also have to start from the 50% mark; then you continue your progress from each starting point by switching back and forth between two different time frames. I thought there would be a good reason for using this unconventional storytelling style that will result in a huge impact, but there was none. There was no epic convergence or anything like that at all. In the end, it all seems like this unconventional style was included for the sake of making things more complex than necessary. Every chapter became a constant battle of readjusting information gathered in your head due to the different timeframes. Plus, Kihrin in all timeframes sounded like totally different characters due to this storytelling method - the main character’s development became disjointed and abstract rather than natural. When a chapter was great and I was interested to find out what happened next, the narrative forced me to read another chapter from a different timeframe first. And this happened regularly.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy complex epic fantasy, I’ve read and utterly loved Malazan Book of the Fallen and other massive fantasy series. However, The Ruin of Kings didn’t really work out for me, as I felt it was deliberately more complex than it needed to be. I strongly advise readers to check out the preview chapters kindly provided by Tor on their website, or NetGalley before getting this book. For the reasons I mentioned above, I truly believe that you have to truly know what kind of storytelling style you’re getting into here; you can’t rely only on the blurbs and advertisements. I’m saying this so that the book will attract the right audience too. I always try my best to read a book that has my interest with as little information as possible. Most of the time it worked absolutely well, but sadly this was one of those rare cases where it didn’t; I should’ve read at least a few chapters before requesting for the ARC.
I know I have sounded really negative and critical so far but believe me that it wasn’t all bad. The world-building, in particular, was spectacular. Lyons implemented her world-building gradually and there wasn't any info-dump. The world that Lyons has built in The Ruin of Kings was huge in scope, full of rich history, brimming with dangers, politics, gods, demons, and massive dragon. Lyons also has a superbly engaging prose that even when the story became too convoluted, I was never bored with it and was still intrigued to continue. Finally, the side characters were incredibly well-written. I didn't find myself invested with Kihrin, but his interaction and banter with the side characters were humorous and entertaining to read. Every side character have their personality well fleshed-out and their own distinct voices. Galen and Doc were two of my favorite characters from the book. I do want to say though, that this book is not for YA. It deals with a lot of heavy and dark topics like rape, incest, slavery, and prejudice that I think is not suitable for a younger audience.
“Real evil is an empire like Quur, a society that feeds on its poor and its oppressed like a mother eating her own children. Demons and monsters are obvious; we’ll always band together to fight them off. But real evil, insidious evil, is what lets us just walk away from another person’s pain and say, well, that’s none of my business.”
My rating speaks for itself; that I liked The Ruin of Kings and I think this was a good debut. Overall, I just didn’t find the book to reach the level of grandeur promised by the very high claims. In my opinion, The Ruin of Kings was a good debut that could've been amazing if it follows a more linear and chronological storytelling style. Although in the end this didn't really work out as much as I hoped, I recommend The Ruin of Kings to readers who are looking for complex epic fantasy with an unconventional storytelling method.
The e-ARC I got was so awfully formatted that it might've affect my reading enjoyment and immersion. There's a chance that I'm going to enjoy the book more on a reread with a finished and well-polished copy. When will that happen, I can't say for sure yet.
Official release date: February 5th, 2019 (US), February 7th, 2019 (UK)
You can pre-order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping)
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
I don’t like the sprayed edges on this one. It looks like they might have been trying to do a grey color from the grey book (which I like better and am going to get) or maybe a light blue.
Holy shit balls! This book was so confusing and so good, I don’t even know what all I just read!! My mind!!!
*photo: David Ho & George Redhawk
Im looking forward to the next book and a reread of this crazy book!
We did this (myself and Emma) as a combined review for Fantasy Book Review which can be seen here. http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/Je...
These were my thoughts following on from what Emma had already written.
I received a limited edition proof copy of The Ruin of Kings in exchange for an honest review
Additional notes by James Tivendale - I think Emma summed up most of the points perfectly.
I agree with what Emma said about the point of views switching between 1st and 3rd person sometimes being confusing and the reader having to readjust. The beginning and middle I rated 10/10. The ending occasionally felt forceful and rushed until the final 30-40 pages which I found absolutely stunning. There are a lot of characters and many of which have very similar names and there are very complex family trees. Lyons kindly includes a Dramatis Personae as well as explaining difficult or uneasy context to help us understand the deepness and complexities in her amazingly crafted world.
Following on from there being many characters it does get confusing with the two timelines. One being Kihrin's 1st person perspective which is his recent antics and the other being his jailor Talon's descriptions of what happened before his sections. Many of the cast are in both timelines and with short, sharp and often very thrilling chapters and I believe only 4-years difference between the action of both segments it does sometimes take a few minutes to work out, or it did for me if this is before or after what happened last. First of my two further negatives is that I didn't really grasp the reasons for the whole prophecy about our main character and I never thought he wasn't the hero as the tagline states. Also, the 80-90% section of the narrative is too swift, and however amazing it is, pardon my french - it's a bit of a 'head-fuck.'
I sound like I've been negative here but I'm really not. Emma summed up perfectly what I enjoyed about this book. I still believe this will be an instant classic and TOR have got an absolute winner on their hands. My comments might have been the harshest but I've pushed the rating up because of how great I think this book is, albeit including minor issues. The Ruin of Kings will be in many top-10 lists next year and I cannot wait to see what comes next because I'm 100% here for the whole ride.
Have you ever been to denial town? Currently visiting and it sucks....
The Ruin of Kings has been on my radar ever since it was announced in 2018 being compared to Joe Abercrombie (one of my favorite authors), Patrick Rothfuss, and Brandon Sanderson. It sounded so good - a heavy dose of epic fantasy with all the usual nastiness and morally-grey characters. But I could not connect with a single character or event in this book no matter what I did. The convoluted storytelling DID NOT HELP. In Fact I skimmed the last half of this as fast as I could....
I'm sure the right sort of reader will eat this up and add it to their favorites list. It does seem to be garnering a lot of positive attention. At least the publisher is making it seem like that with those heavy words "Prepare to meet the genre's next star."
Page 1 begins with an ominous scene. We’re introduced to a boy named Kirian as he is in a jail cell with a “demon” named Talon who is leaning on the outside bars begging for a story to be told on how he got there.
And so he begins.
And so does she.
That’s right. We are forced to follow not one but two different perspectives of the same story being told. We have two narrations here! There’s Kihrins 1st person perspective talking about his recent events and then there’s Talons 3rd person perspective talking about what happened before the events he’s telling.. uhhhh. So yes, Talons chapters aren't about her. They're also about Kihrin.. in 3rd person.. but his name is Rook..
Which would have been incredibly unique and interesting but I found it to be confusing and hard to follow. OH YEAH! There’s also footnotes throughout the whole book...
Not like I don’t enjoy a complex story, I freaking do! Like give me all the complexity! But with the writing style, body swapping (where characters are actually not the characters you think they are) and the 10 page glossary in the back of the book of smash-your-face-on-keyboard names (including multiple nicknames for multiple characters) made up slangs for gangs, and kingdoms and faraway lands. This quickly became a chore. Adding insult to injury, I found the the main character Kihrin very unlikeable and did not enjoy reading the story he wanted to tell.
I think if we had a linear plot line, it would have been much more enjoyable. It's so frustrating that its convoluted because there is a wonderful story and world that's sort of obstructed by the time and perspective jumps. The world building is beautiful and the rich history/cultures were *insert grabby hands*
But all in all, I am left in a puddle of disappointment. Like I said, I skimmed the fork out of the last half of this book. I was over it but I feel like I have a good mindset on my rating.
3.5 stars, maybe 4 - may change as I review the full book upon publication.
Who are you again??
So sweet of you to ask. I’m Talon. I’ll be your murderer tonight.
I recently finished reading this preview available on Netgalley of The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons and enjoyed it very much. I did have some problems with the chosen narrative style which did not help the story, but the book was fascinating enough to keep me glued to the pages.
Our story starts off with the protagonist stuck in a prison cell and his formidable captor watching over him, preventing any chance of escape. His captor is bored and demands (threats are made) the protagonist tell her the tale of how exactly he got here. Thus we find out what has transpired, but from chapters told through alternate viewpoints. One from the protagonist, Kihrin, and the other from the jailor, Talon. These alternating viewpoints then also have different timelines and every time a viewpoint switches it is almost a mental exercise in remembering what is going on. There is also another complication with the viewpoints, as one character can see from multiple viewpoints, but I will leave it at that. See why I mentioned the confusing narrative style?
Young Kihrin is a talented thief who witnesses something he should not have, which then sets in motion events that will eventually lead to him being claimed against his will as the long-lost son of a treasonous prince, as mentioned in the blurb. The Kihrin we find languishing in the jail cell though, seems to be a very different version of the character and I can only wonder at all the changes in him and the events that transpired to result in his incarceration.
I have not read Jenn Lyons before, but apart from the confusing narrative I enjoyed her writing. Worldbuilding was solid, characters were interesting and the story riveting. As mentioned, this was just a preview though, so I cannot judge the entire book but only comment on what I have read so far. The thing is that this book would likely have been amazing without all the extra complication of the viewpoints and timelines etc. When it was good, it was SO good. But the narrative choices take so much away from the story. I am not sure if the rest of the book gets less complicated as it continues, but the story being as fascinating as it is, I hope that the next book takes a simpler approach. The preview ended just as things got REALLY interesting, so I am pretty much clueless as to what’s next but still VERY eager to find out where this is going. I have hope, friends. Another (part of a) book on the TBR list.
The Ruin of Kings releases February 5th 2019
The next big blockbuster fantasy series, at least according to the massive publicity push.
There are three narrative threads switching back and forth, sometimes with lightning speed: there is the present-day, in which our handsome hero, Kihrin, is in prison, telling his story to Talon in first person.
Then we get Talon’s narrative intrusions explaining Kihrin’s past, interpolated with a mysterious narrator who also adds footnotes.
It’s clear that the author is having prime fun with narrative devices; the footnotes veer between mordant-toned commentary and casual worldbuilding nuggets. The result is a snarl of time and place and POV that the reader must constantly adjust to, but there is enough cleverness in the prose, and vivid imagery (sometimes too vivid for my wimpy self) to make it worthwhile-- if one likes this type of fantasy.
And a lot of people will. It’s intelligently written, with wildly inventive worldbuilding stitching together the usual fantasy tropes of kings, demons, wars, and priests doing blood magic, etc.
The book should do super well as there is enough torture, blood, guts, brothel-forced sex, incest, rape, and agony (while still preserving Kihrin’s fabulous looks and nascent powers) to satisfy the Game of Thrones fans who go into fantasy expecting astronomical body counts.
Since this was a preview, ending on a thousand mile drop of a cliffhanger, there is no predicting how this first book of a projected five book series hangs together, but judging by the exhilaratingly wild ride of this glimpse, I expect it will do what its fans want most: entertain.
Preview provided by NetGalley