A Mixed Bag Fantasy Intro

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Title: Kingdom of Liars

Author: Nick Martell

Pub: Simon & Schuster

Length: 608p

Release: July 23rd 2020 (new date)

Rating & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ maybe

Thank you to Bookish First and Simon & Schuster for my ARC of The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell. Book was claimed in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own!

Description Omitted for BookishFirst!

(If you're here for the Sanderson commentary, it's towards the bottom)

So there is obviously a lot going on in the book, and it is a whopper at 608 pages. The book is told in first person, as Michael relates his story to a certain Archivist before his execution.

My biggest gripe with the book was a certain lack of world building despite the length. Words like Tweeker, Skeleton, Sacrifice, the entire political and military structure, religion, and even the purpose of the Kingmans are thrown out in name or title but never elaborated on. It makes sense to a certain point since Michael wouldn't have explained things to the Archivist that he already knew, but I don't think explanation would have hurt the story.

The action and pacing is decent. The plot starts out a little slowly then picks up around the half way point, holding my attention until the end. There was enough action throughout to keep me fairly interested - immersion is where the book struggles. In a fantasy world with magic wielders and broken, prophetic moons, I can understand how the non magical countries developed weapons like guns. Firearms even the battle field REAL quick, although foreign wars weren't the focus, the entire plot only takes place over a few days. I like a good bit of political maneuvering in books but readers didn't see it, another character was facilitating things off page.

Other than the guns, the language and names hurt immersion a LOT. Come on, Treyvon and Jamal, dark guys from the wrong side of the river turning into ...who, Joker? This isn't a political commentary. All of the names were decidedly American. The swearing too - a good fantasy world will invent even a silly curse like "curse you" or "nine hells" or ANYTHING, but Martell settled for the nine thousand uses of the word Fuck. The only swear/curse in Hollow is apparently Fuck, and that's just lame. The lack of world building specifics also hurt immersion. I could kind of glean an explanation about the church and aforementioned other specifics, but not having that knowledge hurt. When he did explain something it was good too, like the Sacrifices.

The most well described bit was probably the Royals vs high vs low nobles vs those in poverty, but only in the sense of rich vs poor. I had a good idea of the mood in the city but needed more to make the factions feel real.

Speaking of nobles with power and rich vs poor pit workers ... The big elephant in the room is that Sanderson blurbed the book. I am not a fan of his writing after reading Mistborn but I see similarities especially in the magic system - mostly that it's lazy. Everyone gets one specialty (or rarely two) and they range from "light" to "dark" to "nullify" to "lightning" fabrications ... You get the idea. The magic just happens too, it's innate and the nobles have to train to use it or they can destroy their memories. Maybe Sanderson saw some of himself and his early writing in the book but I also wonder if he actually read it.

Most of the characters are not excellent at all. Michael is so caught up in his family legacy but he's just stupid, getting himself nearly killed frequently and he seems to have no concept of thinking things through. He whines, changes his mind frequently, hurts people because he never thinks, and I thought it was great when the Mercenary called him out. So wrapped up in his own nonsense that he couldn't spot the mastermind enemy 😳. Even at the end Michael couldn't stop repeating the family broken legacy record. Oh yeah I hate books that repeat themselves and he spent way too much time pining over his father and the legacy, we got it already. This is an adult fantasy, we don't need the repetition.

Kai (blind) was my favorite character other than Dark, the badass mercenary. I also liked Gwen, Michael's sister, for unexplained spoilery reason, and Dawn. The title of the series, "The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings," makes sense only at the end when we have an idea where the series might go. Really though if Kingdom of Liars is just a long introduction and exposition to Michael's story going forward, the world-building needed to be there.

Random bits: I thought I spotted a nod to Glen Cook's The Black Company, which is great if it wasn't coincidental. I also like when Hanging Gardens hang people, not just flowers.

Honestly I will probably at least try to read the second book. The new set of characters might be more interesting going forward and events should be taking place in the present. I am at a solid ⭐⭐⭐ for this one, for poor immersion and lazy magic with enough action to keep me reading. Would recommend for fans of Sanderson and lower/middle fantasy.