The Black Coast by Mike Brooks has my favourite and familiar fantasy themes of lost heirs, new cultures, strong warrior women and dragons but the description around gender makes this one of the best books I have read this year. Read my review here.
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Book one of The God King Chronicles.
Source of the book: Bought this one myself after reading a review on another book blog A cat, a cup of tea and a book.
The Knights of the Black Keep are surprised when the raiders they assume have come to pillage their land have actually come to seek refuge from a terrible, evil spirit destroying their land. Now the Tjakorshi and the Naridians must learn to live together and tolerate each other. But in Narida, the rumour that the Splinter King, the true heir, has been found but this could lead to another devastating splintering, the country may not survive.
The blurb focuses on whether the new society of Tjakorshi and Naridian will survive, the book is so much more complex and epic. In fact, while I found myself invested in whether this fledgling society would survive, I was more interested the differences in how women’s roles were so different in each culture and how gender plays a role in how they were perceived.
I have to confess, I found the style of speech where people refer to themselves annoying at the start of the book and while I still don’t like it but it did become less intrusive.
There are several points of view characters but the main ones are Saana, the chief of the Brown Clan seeking refuge at Black Keep and Daimon, the adopted young son of the local Thane who overthrows his father to prevent bloodshed and grants refuge to Saana’s people. Tila, the current King’s sister who leads a secret life as a pirate ( I loved this) and who is willing to do anything to keep her brother on the throne and Jeya, a young Albanian urchin who finds herself falling in love with a handsome boy- a boy who could change the world.
The Tjakorshi were certainly different, not so much refugees but invaders who agree to settle peacefully. Both the Naridians and the Tjakorshi have some progressive ideas and regressive ideas. I loved how each culture eventually accepted each other through gritted teeth to make it work despite the prejudices of each side- if only this would happen so quickly in the real world.
The book’s highlight is the way it looks at gender, gender roles and the society view this. Alaba has a complicated language system to depict one’s chosen gender and while it took me
a few chapters to get my head around this, it eventually made a lot of sense especially recognising the fact that some women have some masculine traits and vice versa. Saana, the female chief, is accepted with no hesitation by her people as a leader and a warrior but she has to refer to herself as a man to be accepted as a leader by the Nardians (something I suspect a lot of working women will identify with I suspect).
I did find the Nardians need to refer to themselves in the third person a little tiresome and as always I found the chapters from the point of view of random characters that are never heard from again annoying but these are very minor grips.
Descriptions of prejudice to same-sex relationships and women but this is challenged throughout the book. Off-page death of children.
Perfect for fans
Of any epic fantasy, or anyone who like their fantasy with references to real-world issues.
4 and a half stars- I have added The Splinter King to my reading list and would recommend this book to anyone who dreams of a world where people could possibly learn to get along.
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