By: Mike Brooks
Genre: Epic Fantast
CONTENT WARNING: Some violence and gore
The Black Coast is the first of the series of the God-King Chronicles and it is a solid fantasy book. The fantasy genre is a bit lacking in diversity and I found The Black Coast’s strong inclusion of gender identity refreshing and a much-needed addition. It was one of the strong points of the book.
The Black Coast is part Norse-like and part, what I would call, Medieval Europe-like fantasy, blended together very well by Mr. Brooks. The story centers around Black Keep, a coastal town under periodic raids by the northern clan of Tjakorsha, the Brown Eagle clan. They now arrive at Black Keep’s shores, headed by their Chief, Saana, to settle as they have fled their homeland from a daemonic god. The ruling thane and one his sons are against it, however, his other son, Daimon, sees the wisdom of allowing it. Far outnumbered by the Brown Eagles, he knows they will fight, and many will die. To achieve peace and allow the settlement, he imprisons his father and brother in their rooms at the keep. Meanwhile, in the capital of Idramar, sits the God-King, Natan III. It is said they are direct descendants of the god they worship, Nari. While Natan is a decent king, it is his sister, Tila, who does the maneuvering and politicking to keep her family secure. In The City of Islands, Kiburu ce Alaba, sits the Splinter King, distant relative of the God-King who claims the right to the throne.
There is quite a bit to keep up with in Black Coast. There is the tentative alliance between Black Keep and the Brown Eagle clan, political intrigue not only in court at Idramar, but in Kiburu ce Alaba, the conspiracies of the thanes that rule portions of Naridia, the rise of the daemon god in Tjakorska and the supposed return of the god Nari to throne of Narida. While the story was very engaging, it moved a little slowly at the beginning. Each chapter focuses on a different character in the book, all told in the third person narrative. The characters often refer to themselves in the third person, and sometimes the reading didn’t flow smoothly. The character development was excellent, and with so many characters, this was a strong point in the book. The only issue I had was that at times, there were too many chapters in between a character and it broke up the flow a bit. The battle and action scenes were well done and exciting. When there are battle scenes, I like them to be real. Yes, there is violence and graphic descriptions, but battles are not tidy and spotless. The descriptions that are narrated by the characters as they see them and are interspersed so well in the action, they move seamlessly. Did I mention the dragons? There are dragons in this book, but not the big fire breathing, flying dragons. These are war dragons the warriors of Narida ride into battle. I loved this unique take on dragons. There were dangerous beasts called rattletails raised at Black Keep. They are feathered with quills on their tails that rattled, hence giving them their name. Longbrows and frillnecks are the larger dragons that are ridden. They are dangerous in battle with their fierce horns and sheer size, but despite their size and ferocity in battle, they only eat grass.
Gender fluidity in this book was not only addressed, it was certainly another very strong part of the book (and I would assume the series). As fan of fantasy, while there are more LGBTQIA+ characters, there needs to be more representation. The head on tackling of gender fluidity in this book is so important to increase the diversity in fantasy. In Narida, one does not assume the gender of another person, they are male, female or non-binary. There is same sex marriage and adoption, and in Narida is simply a part of life. They don’t think about it, only in terms of the rudeness in assuming what one’s gender is. One of the early conflicts is between Daimon of Black Keep and Saana, Chief of the Brown Eagle Clan. Gender fluidity is life in Black Keep and Narida. It is not mentioned because no one thinks about it as other than normal. Saana, on the other hand, does not understand nor can accept this “unnatural” way of living. How this is addressed and worked out is perhaps something we can all learn from. Mr. Brooks should be applauded for inclusion in this series, and tackling this head on.
The Black Coast, Book 1 of the God-King Chronicles, is a unique and engaging fantasy. It has many complex characters that are well thought out and developed. I liked that there were strong female characters, like Saana, the Chief of the Brown Eagle Clan and Tila, the God-King’s sister. They go against traditions and do what they must to secure the future of their people. For me, the prose did not flow smoothly at times, with a third person narrative and characters referring to themselves in the third person as well. However, I do think it is a good change from typical first- or third-person narrative. I think it can only improve as the series progresses. The action and battle scenes were excellent and certainly on par with the best of the fantasy genre. Much of the action happened towards the end of the book, as it was building towards it. The ending is fantastic. I recommend The Black Coast. As the first of the series, it is engaging and very unique.
Summary (from Goodreads)
War Dragons. Fearsome Raiders. A Daemonic Warlord on the Rise.
When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them because they know who is coming: for generations, the keep has been raided by the fearsome clans people of Tjakorsha. Saddling their war dragons, Black Keep’s warriors rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own land by a daemonic despot who prophesises the end of the world, the raiders come in search of a new home . . .
Meanwhile the wider continent of Narida is lurching toward war. Black Keep is about to be caught in the crossfire – if only its new mismatched society can survive.
Find out more about Mike Brooks on his website at http://www.mikebrooks.co.uk/
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