The King’s Bastard by Rowena Cory Daniells

August 5, 2010

The cut and thrust of political manoeuvring is never as simple as the cut and thrust of real battle

For the most part I don’t usually enjoy politics as a form of escapism. I’ve tried on multiple occasions to read The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, for instance, but the further I get in the story the less and less I care about the characters. For me all the political scheming starts to wear a bit thin. When I read fantasy I tend to prefer action and shy away from anything overtly political although I realise that some readers enjoy these intricate machinations.

I’m glad to say however, that I’ve finally found a book that has made me revise my opinion. The King’s Bastard is the first in a new trilogy by Rowenna Cory Daniells published by Solaris. Surrounded by feuding warlords the story focuses on the country of Rolencia. King Rolen has managed to hold together a shaky peace for the last thirty years. In an attempt to keep the peace he has banned the unsanctioned use of Affinity, think mental powers derived directly from the earth itself. Only Rolencia’s monks and nuns have permission to wield Affinity after years of training.

The thing that elevated this book from just a standard by the numbers political fantasy was the characters. The royal family, particularly the four royal children Lence, Byren, Piro and Fyn are all forced down different paths that lead them too some interesting places. Lence and Byren are twins and the two oldest brothers. Separated by only seven minutes Lence is the King’s heir and driven by dreams of power while Byren is happy to be free from responsibility. Piro is their teenage sister on the cusp of womanhood and promised to a barbarian warlord to cement his loyalty. Piro is torn between her desire do her duty and her fear of being trapped in an arranged marriage. Fyn, born with Affinity, has spent his formative years in a monastery studying to become a monk and control his Affinity.

Daniells has created an interesting and believable world that gives the reader an in-depth insight into how Rolencia’s infrastructure works. In the summer, all the towns are connected via canals and in the winter the frozen canals are used as roads with skates and sledges. I liked the fact that the author has taken time to consider how things like this can impact the central story.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys an epic tale. There is a real sense that all the Machiavellian plotting is going somewhere. The book ends with many questions left unanswered which is exactly what I’m looking for in the first book of a trilogy. I’ve been successfully hooked by the author and now will definitely be returning to see how the story unfolds.

The good news is that there won’t be a long wait for the second volume,The Uncrowned King, is released this month and volume three, The Usurper, to follow in September. Though not strictly review related, I have to mention the cover art by Clint Langley as well, dark but really evocative stuff. The cover was the reason I picked up the book in the first place, and I am glad I did.


  • madnad August 5, 2010 at 10:30 am

    You are right – the cover is brilliant. Good review!

  • Allan August 8, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Looking forward to reading this one now – might bump it up the queue a bit. I never really considered the wheel of time series to be a politically driven story, sure there is an element of it but there is still loads of action in them.
    I really enjoyed George Martins “Song of Fire & Ice” series though and that is mainly political wheelings and dealings. Well written though, good guys become bad guys and vice versa, betrayals and main characters who you think will go though the whole series (as is usual with there types of books) dropping dead a few books in. Now if he would just pick up his pace a bit more like Rowena Cory Daniells.
    Waiting for your Patient Zero review now – i read that earlier in the year

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