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The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons. Book review

February 14, 2019

The Ruin of Kings book cover. A dragon's head and neck in profile against a red background

Apprentice to a musician, Kihrin had a profitable side line as a highly-skilled thief largely due to his ability to render himself invisible and pick locks. But his nascent magical skills had only been partly trained, leaving him wide open to those whose abilities reached deep and dark.

When Kihrin ends up being pursued by a demon, he comes to the attention of the nobility, a social group he has always craved to belong to. But it is a case of be careful what you wish for, as Kihrin becomes embroiled in epic events which began long before his birth.

Kihrin is a flawed hero in the epic sense. His mere existence appears to presage death and destruction. The Ruin of Kings sets up and interesting premise, not of the usual youth going on a journey of discovery guided by kindly mentors in which he becomes a hero, but the complete opposite. Potential mentors may have nothing more than their own interests at heart, leaving the question of who can he trust? This is where living by his wits all his life has the potential to save him. Or not.

We enter the story with Kihrin languishing in a cell guarded by Talon, a gorgeous looking girl who is in fact a monster keener on devouring him as her next meal than being forced to guard him. This literary ploy really establishes the relentless tension of the narrative and subverting the usual “will they won’t they” into “will Talon devour Kihrin or not”. It also means we get to hear the tale from two different timelines narrated in turn by Kihrin and his unwilling jailor. This makes for an interesting way of storytelling which puts you inside Kihrin’s head, but also provides an outsider’s viewpoint of Kihrin’s life. Yet at the same time that someone has been intimately involved with it.

There are many such clever twists in the plot as the story goes on. Just as you settle in to what might be an expected outcome of a particular scene, there is a twist, usually not in Kihrin’s favour. All of these serve as excellent cliff-hangers with which to keep the reader engrossed in what turned out to be a tortuous plot which kept on surprising.

The blurb mentions Game of Thrones, but the narrative is something far subtler and laced with a great many humorous observations by Kihrin, often when he is in deep trouble or grappling with the kind of situation there seems no good way out of.

Most of the villains are purveyors of world-class unpleasantness with no redeeming features, which makes for a refreshing change from a trend of justifiable bad person because an unfortunate series of events has made them that way.

The story is so densely layered with backstory and different plot strands that I did occasionally have to take a break for fear of overload, but in all The Ruin of Kings is an enjoyable read and a tale to keep a reader enthralled throughout.

The Ruin of Kings was courtesy of Tor.

You can read an excerpt of The Ruin of Kings by following this link.

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