King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist

So this is Feist’s first book outside Midkemia for an awfully long time. I was, and am, a huge fan of his even though the later books in the series had some serious issues.

It’s fairly obvious from the start that he is trying to be a little edgier here. There is proper cursing, lots of talk about sex, and the violence seems more visceral than his usual style. It’s like he’s trying to write darker while keeping the same sort of character tone from his Midkemia books. I’m not sure my description has come across well but not sure how else to frame it. I’m also not sure he pulled it off very well.

We have two primary POV’s; Hatu the last remaining heir to a betrayed and destroyed kingdom (this is not a spoiler, it’s on the cover blurb and in the prologue), and Declan a journeyman blacksmith. Hatu has been raised in a criminal fraternity, learning to fight, steal and spy. Declan is also an orphan, on the verge of his blacksmith mastery in a small town in what is a neutral zone between 4 (used to be 5) kingdoms. Events occur and our protagonists travel and learn things and end up in very different places than where they began.

So from that description above it seems very Feist does it not? He does love his orphans. And it is very like his other books, especially the earlier ones. Orphans with hints of something greater, mysterious powers and senses, little glimpses of something bigger going on out of sight.

I liked the Declan character, a fairly straightforward person with a few hints of ruthlessness that aren’t immediately apparent. His is the more ordinary story, fairly low key and almost slice of life. Hatu has the bigger picture storyline for obvious reasons but I did not enjoy all of his even though I should have. It’s because he spends pretty much the whole time thinking about one of his friends (Hava, who we also get a couple of POV’s). I was a teenage boy myself so I understand that it’s probably fairly realistic to think about sex and a girl all the time but it gets tiresome pretty quickly reading about it. Honestly I’d say it’s 40-50% of his POV’s are him brooding and moping about her and his feelings.

Also there are a lot of infodumps. I usually don’t notice these but these were pretty common and not much attempt was made to hide the fact that they are infodumps, it took you out of the flow somewhat.

Having said all that I did enjoy it. It’s no Riftwar or Serpentwar but it’s an interesting world with the bigger picture only seemingly touched upon so far. Some events near the end make me hopeful that Hatu won’t be so annoying in further books, and I am very curious as to where Declan is going. The style is very clunky and hopefully Feist will master the blend between the darker tone he’s striving for with his more traditional outlook in later books.

3.5 stars out of 5

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