By: Mike Brooks
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Solaris Books
THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BLACK COAST!!
CONTENT WARNING: Some violence and gore
The Splinter King is the second in the series, the God-King Chronicles, continuing the story right where The Black Coast left off. In this second entry in the series, Mr. Brooks has further developed the prose and action, making The Splinter King an excellent sequel.
Having read The Black Coast, we know several important plot points to moving into The Splinter King. Daimon has married Saana to further unite their people, and Darel is now fully supportive. Lead by Rikkut the Fireheart, an attack from The Golden’s forces, the daemon god, Saana’s people were escaping, failed at Black Keep, though the Golden lives. Jeya, the street orphan, has fallen in love and is protecting the only surviving member of the Splinter King’s family. Tila, in her alter persona, Livnya the Knife, ordered the killings to protect the throne. Darel will travel to Idramar to get the blessing of the God-King for the Brown Eagle clan to settle amongst them. There are rumors that Nari, the God that Naridians worship, has been re-born. This will upend the God-King on the throne.
“Three of your men saw sense, and their lives have been spared,” the priest declared, in a tone as neutral as if he were discussing the weather. “One, in fact, has been healed of his wounds by the Divine One himself. The rest of you will, as this priest promised, be left out for the scavengers.” – Prologue, The Splinter King, Mike Brooks
And so it begins…
The Splinter King builds beautifully on The Black Coast. It is structured same, each chapter focuses on a different character from the third person point of view, and characters refer to themselves frequently in the third person. Gender fluidity is part of the narrative; however, Saana has accepted it. It is now more part of “background,” rather than it at the forefront. I think this is a brilliant way to handle it. Make an issue that can be divisive, have the main characters work through it, and it becomes perfectly normal, as it should be. The character development is once again superb. While The Black Coast focused quite a bit on Daimon, Saana, Tila, and Rikkut, with the other characters filling in, the Splinter King’s focus was on different characters. I very much liked how this was done, as we were able to get to know the other characters more in-depth. Zhanna, Darel, and Jeya become the focal point. The other characters are present, but they are relegated to only a few chapters each.
The prose in the book is much the same as it was in The Black Coast. However, where I felt it was a little awkward in book one, it now flows smoothly. It is a very different way of writing, and how characters speak, but by The Splinter King, I felt I knew the “language.” I also felt it hit more of a stride, so to speak, in the way it was written and flowed effortlessly. The time between character points of view was lessened, so the reader was not waiting for several chapters to pass to return to where a character was in the plot. This was also a nice improvement in this sequel and also contributed to the smooth flow of both the prose and the story. In writing, high born individuals, such as lords and thanes, speak very clearly, even when referring to themselves in the third person. Low born characters, such as sailors and servants, are little more difficult to understand. This method of characterization was, for this reader, unique to this series. Examples of such are this from a high-born individual:
“This lord cannot, of course, speak for his brother in this matter,” Daimon admitted. “However, he can say with certainty that so far in his life, Lord Darel has never expressed attraction to a woman. It is of course possible that Lady Yarmina may be the exception, but,” he smiled politely, “he does not consider it to be likely.”
One can see how the character refers to themselves in the third person. The words are formal and I found them to flow easier by the time I was reading The Splinter King. The low-born do the same, but the language is not as formal, as illustrated:
“Never listen to what the Keepers say,” Marin chided her. “S’man’s in here due to a misunderstanding from a good five years ago, would you believe? He came back to the city with his husband, and may Nari have mercy on him, he only runs into a Keeper…Literally ran into”
The pacing of the book is excellent. The action was spread more evenly throughout, and it was page turning action. Mr. Brooks writes excellent, well thought out action scenes. From a battle with pirates to a sneak attack on the Smoking Valley Mountain village, they keep the reader engaged and wanting more. Again, I thought that the spacing of character perspectives between chapters was much better in the Splinter King. That could be a result of more smaller action scenes rather than one cumulating battle, but either way, I was excited to read these scenes. Chapters did end off on cliffhangers and it only added to the anticipation and excitement.
The characters were fully developed in both books. Zhanna is given the chance to lead a group from Black Keep to find out what has happened to the people of the Smoking Valley. She is a strong female protagonist who is eager to prove herself as a warrior and leader. Darel is level headed and smart. He has never left Black Keep and going to Indramar is wondrous to him. Darel is nervous about going before the God-King to present his case about the Brown Eagle clan settling in Black Keep. Seeing Darel come to life on the pages brought out the differences between him and Daimon. Daimon is more of a warrior while Darel is more of a thinker. They complement each other very well. Jeya was in The Black Coast, but she is more present in The Splinter King. She is a street orphan who is now hiding the Splinter King heir, as the only survivor of the murder of his family. Using the name Galem, she not only helps him survive, but they have fallen in love. There are interesting twists here, but to write more would be spoilers. Jeya is street smart, loyal, caring and truly loves Galem. The other characters are present, but again, they not the main focus as they were in The Black Coast. They play a big part, and their stories continue to develop as well. Two other characters worth noting are Marin and Laz. Marin, once a university student, and his husband Laz, set out with a small group to find if Nari, the god Naridians worship, has indeed been re-born.
The world building was excellent. We see more of Narida and they are vividly brought to life. The Smoking Valley Mountain was amazing and really unique, where the people live in cliff houses in the mountains. It is called the Smoking Valley because the pools of water in the forest give off smoke, and periodically erupts. A sacred river runs through it. We spend more time in the capital city of Indramar. It is described a beautiful city, and the seat of the Sun Palace where the God-King lives. I could picture a gleaming white city, where a palace sat atop it. The City of Islands, where Jeya and the Splinter King live, is also more prominent. It is not as impressive as Indramar. It is a trade center due to its location and island life. There are various rich quarters in the city and the poorer areas where Jeya grew up. Unlike the majority of Narida, the City of Islands has slave trade. As the two books progress, we can feel an undercurrent of something major that is going to happen with both the “re-birth” of Nari, The Golden, and the Splinter King.
The Splinter King, Book 2 of the God-King Chronicles, continues the story of this a unique and engaging fantasy. I found this book to have hit its stride in the series and was excellent. The characters were the same, though the focus shifted to others, and they are just complex, well thought out and developed. As we get to know the characters more, we find that some are morally ambiguous and others will surprise you. I liked the twists and turns that the characters took. The prose flowed smoothly, and I had a better grasp with a third person narrative and characters referring to themselves in the third person. I thought it would improve as the series progressed and it has. The action and battle scenes were once again excellent and on par with the best of the fantasy genre. In The Splinter Much the action was well paced throughout the book and keeps the reader on edge and engaged. The world building is excellent, as we see more of Naridia beyond Black Keep. Once again, the ending is fantastic. I highly recommend The Splinter King. This series is only getting better and I eagerly await the next book.
Summary (from Goodreads)
Epic worldbuilding at its finest, The Splinter King is the second book in the unmissable God-King Chronicles. Filled with war-dragons, armored knights, sea-faring raiders, dangerous magic and battle scenes.
Darel, dragon knight and the new leader of Black Keep, must travel to the palace of the God-King to beg for the lives of his people. But in the capital of Narida, Marin and his warrior husband will be drawn into a palace coup, and Princess Tila will resort to murder to keep her hold on power.
In the far reaches of the kingdom an heir in exile is hunted by assassins, rumors of a rival God-King abound, and daemonic forces from across the seas draw ever nearer…