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P.L. Stuart

Book Review Season of Kings by AJ Rettger

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Book Review SEASON OF KINGS by AJ Rettger

 

Below is more of an endorsement, as opposed to my standard review, based on the ARC generously provided by the author, however it is based on my honest opinions of this book. Thank you AJ Rettger for the opportunity to read "Season of Kings"!

"Season of Kings" is the newest grimdark fantasy release from talented author AJ Rettger, and the beginning of a new series.

The three main POVs are that of Grimm, Elbert, and Anna.

Grimm is a fearsome warrior from barbarian tribes, whose physcially imposing frame, haunted past, and gruff demeanor will immediately bring to mind Logen Ninefingers of Joe Abercrombie's fabulous First Law series.

Elbert is a prince of Artanzia, whose single-minded aspiration is to be king, though he is not the rightful heir: his charismatic, beloved, battle-proven brother is. But that's not going to stop Elbert from getting the throne at all costs.

Meanwhile, Anna, 14 years old, raised in a rural environment, is orphaned, but she is far from powerless. Trained in the deadly arts by her soldier father, Anna must find a way to survive in a stark world, where even the worst out there who seek to take all kinds of liberties and advantage with a young, vulnerable girl are not as bad as those who shelter her and lend her aid.

Rettger takes his time in deftly weaving the story ARCs of the three main characters together, with devastating results.

There will be times that perhaps some of the characters' actions may seem incongrous with their nature, but the more the reader gets to know them, the more the reader may realize that the reason for these apparent inconsistencies are because Rettger does not have any truly noble and completely upstanding characters whatsoever in this book, save perhaps the dwarven child, Sara. Rettger excels at depicting characters who, ultimately, cannot escape the moral responsibility of their actions, but seem to try their damndest to do so anyway.

These characters are extremely flawed, and extremely complicated, with their avarice, selfishness, and often callousness for the life of others, laid bare right beside these moments of insecurity, compassion, and courage.

To be clear, Grimm, Elbert, and Anna - and those who surround them - are painted in whorls of grey and mist, as they have to wade through the blood of those who seek their life, or perhaps merely those stand in the way of their naked ambition.

There is zero safety for any of the chracters in this book, and reminiscent of all the great grimdark novels, that sense of uncertainty of who will live and who will die makes for thought provoking, tense, and exhilirating reading. Rettger will have the reader wide-eyed and reading deep into the night to see the fates of the main and auxiliary characters, such as Thames, Sara, Randall, and more.

As in "Oathbreaker" Rettger fearlessly tackles of some very challenging and disconcerting topics. Sexual assault, racisim, bigotry, and slavery, are some of those topics explored in the novel, so readers be warned. And, as in his previous book, Rettger places these distressing scenes in the book strictly as part of the realism of the novel, not as a reflection of his beliefs.

In "Season of Kings" Rettger builds on his strengths - as evidenced in "Oathbreaker" - of painting extremely gritty, bleak, and disillusioned worlds, exploring compelling themes, and venturing into the potential heartlessness and cynicism of the human soul, combined with pulse-pounding, raw, vicious action scenes.

In my review of Rettger's debut novel, "Oathbreaker", I commented that Rettger is obviously a highly talented new writer who will only get better, and readers looking for a very young Andrzej Sapkowski or Joe Abercrombie-type author would do well to check out AJ Rettger's writing. "Season of Kings" has done nothing to change my assessment of Rettger, but rather re-affirmed it. As this author continues to develop, he could become a real force in the sub-genre of dark fantasy.

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