Book review- Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

Genre: Fantsay

Series Chorus of Dragons ( This is book 1) click here for series review

Content warning implied rape, slavery, child abuse, dubious consent

 When destiny calls, there’s no fighting back . . .

As a bard’s apprentice, Kihrin grew up with tales of legendary deeds. He also steals, desperate to buy a way out of Quur’s slums. Then he raids the wrong house, he’s marked by a demon and life will never be the same again.

Kihrin’s plight brings him to the attention of royalty, who claim him as the lost son of their immoral prince. But far from living the dream, Kihrin’s at the mercy of his new family’s ruthless ambitions. However, escaping his jewelled cage just makes matters worse. Kihrin is horrified to learn he’s at the centre of an ancient prophecy. And every side – from gods and demons to dragons and mages – want him as their pawn. Those old stories lied about many things too, especially the myth that the hero always wins.

Then again, maybe Kihrin isn’t the hero, for he’s not destined to save the empire. He’s destined to destroy it.

From Amazon

Kirhin, the adopted son of a singer, brought up in a  brothel in the slums of Quur is an accomplished thief who dreams of stealing enough money to give his father a new life. But one day he breaks into the wrong house and attracts the attention of Darzin, heir to the  House of D’Mon and has to quickly adapt to his new role as heir to the house. But his life is going to become much more complicated when he learns that he is a link to an ancient evil called Vol Karoth.

The good

I was hooked by the tagline ‘What if you are not the hero of the story ’ and what a story is was filled with plenty of twists and turns in a well developed, multi-layered universe.

The ruin of Kings is told from Kirhin perspective- both in the first person and in the third person and is possibly the most complicated narrative structure.

 Kirhin’s story starts with him being sold as a slave and his eventual journey to being held captive and Kirhin relates this in the first person being told under duress to his captor. The rest of the story, as told by his captor, Talon, to Kirhin in the third person but is actually being written by another narrator ( who is named later in the book) covers Kirhin story as an underage boy of 15 and how he ended up being sold as a slave( I told you it was complicated). The two storylines eventually converge towards the end of the book. This is an unusual way to tell a story but it works and particularly as I would have found it hard to read about  Kirhin’s experiences at the hands of Darzin in the first person.

There are a range of secondary characters who are vividly described with their own dark motivations and you might need to draw a flowchart to keep track of how everyone is related to each other either in this life or the past life. I like the fact the other characters are of all ages, sexes and races and while  I have a soft spot for Tearath, I did become invested in Lady Miya, Tirentso, Doc, Ola and Talon even with their dark edges.

The world-building is amazing and Quur as a country comes to life as a place of two parts- the rough slums where Kirhin starts life to the walled-off parts of town housing royalty. There are plenty of races, magical creatures, cultures to wrap your head around as well as a stalker dragon.

And yes, the tagline is fulfilled. Kirhin unwittingly causes a whole lot of destruction by the end of the book.

The bad

The story is complicated perhaps a little more than it needed to be s. The naming system is based on taking part of your parents names, so many of the name are very similar but this can make it very hard to keep track of who is who eg, Terindel, Teararth, Thaena. And it only gets worse as the story progresses into the next two books.

The Ugly

The ruin of Kings opens up with a naked, 16- year- old being sold as a slave and almost put me off reading anymore. There are scenes of physical abuse and implied rape to a child ( a 15-year-old is a child in my view and even if sex is consensual is still wrong on so many levels) which takes place off the pages. This is addressed in the book instead of being glossed over but still is uncomfortable to read.

This is another series where  I almost didn’t finish the first book because of graphic descriptions of sexual and physical violence which not present in the subsequent books and I think the book would have worked just as well without some of these scenes.

Romance

There isn’t much except for a budding romance between Kirhin and Tearath although Kirhin falls for the red-eyed girl he sees in a demonically implanted vision.

Any cliffhangers

Yes, the book ends on a massive cliff-hanger with unknown fates for so many people in the book.

Summary

4 stars- I loved this book and would recommend this for any fantasy fans but it loses a star for the slavery and the sheer pain Kirhin is put through.

Series Review-Chorus of Dragons

Author Jenn Lyons

Genre Fantasy

Books in Series

Book 1 :Ruin of Kings ( click here for review)

Book 2: Name of all things

Book 3: Memory of Souls

Book 4 :The House of Always( click here for review)

Content warning implied rape, slavery, child abuse, dubious consent ( mainly in Book 1)

Overriding story arc

This is so complicated to summarise in one short paragraph but I will give this a try ( from what I think is going on!)

Thousands of years ago, In an attempt to stop demons, one of the eight immortals takes a drastic step and creates Vol Karoth. Vol Karoth can destroy the worlds in his own right, and has been dormant for millenia but has started to wake. Kirhin, the hero of the series discovers, his destiny and his link with Vol Karoth, but is he the hero or the person who will wake Vol Karoth and destroy everything he cares for.

Review

Main Characters

Kirhin

The ruin of Kings is told from Kirhin’s perspective- both in the first person and in the third person making the first book having the most complicated narrative I have ever read. He is also the main character in the third book, Memory of Souls but plays a minor role in the second book. Kirhin is an engaging character, you can warm to with genuine character flaws, lots of ambiguity and sexual confusion to boot. He is affected and traumatised by the awful things that happen to him which makes him a real and believable character.

Janel

Introduced in the first book but the second book Name of all things describes her story and her role in defeating Vol Karoth. I have to admit, I do not like Janel and I’m not sure why. She is everything I would want in a female character- brave, strong, confident, no messing around with romantic entanglements but I just find her overbearing and preachy.

Teraeth

Teraeth is my favourite character, strong, dependable and apparently unfazed by anything, he does appear to be the quiet strength behind Janel and Kirhin. He finally gets his own point of view in Memory of Souls and his own path and destiny becomes clearer.

The Good

I was late in discovering this series, and only came across this when trying to find boks similar to the Lymond Chronicles and was intrigued by the tagline ‘ What if you weren’t the hero of the story ‘. I can see why the Chorus of Dragons could be compared to the Lymond Chronicles- they both feature blond, blue-eyed heroes who face hardship and challenges from a young age, a vast range of characters and spread across many places although obviously in this case the worlds are completely made up.

The plot races along, with plenty of twists and some genuine moments of WTF when another tangled relationship or what the stone of shackles can do is revealed. The books all end on a bit of a cliffhanger .so I bought book 2 immediately after finishing the Ruin of Kings but more about that disappointment later. Luckily, book 3 picks up Kirhin’s story with the familiar twists and WTF moments from book 1.

 The author’s world-building is extraordinary and she doesn’t confine this to just one world. There are several countries, planes of existence and afterlives and each country and race has its own well-defined culture. When the author takes time to describe places or food, you could almost be there enjoying a piece of sag bread under a dull sun.

There is oodles of diversity in these books, and people change races through magic at the drop of a sign of trouble. The slaves in this universe appear to be from all races and not just from one race, and slavery seems to be due to trickery or punishment.

The sexual diversity in this book isn’t shoehorned with just one character as in the books, but all the characters seem to be comfortable in their sexuality with the same or opposite gender especially by the third book. Name of all things is more focussed on gender fluidity and people are accepted in the gender of their choice but I did find it hard to wrap my head around the voramer, a race of beings who are born male and then become female- I mean, how is that biologically possible?

There are footnotes, but these do help with the story for example explaining why someone might have chosen to act a certain way when it made no sense to do so. The footnotes also help when you realise that the story is in fact being told by someone else. I haven’t come across such a complicated way of telling a story in fantasy but I enjoyed this.

There are thousands of characters ( it felt like this anyway), who all seem to have a role to play and had their own unique flaws and strengths. I loved how most of them seemed to be connected to each other through family, or through past lives. Darzin, from the first book, was two-dimensionally evil but I’m glad the author didn’t attempt to give him any redeeming features.

I do like the fact the author has tried to talk about issues such as gender, sexuality and slavery in these books but some readers might find this boring.

I almost forgot, there are dragons, lots of dragons.

The bad

I could witter on for ages on what really annoyed me but to summarise this it would be book 2- Name of all things. I  loved the main and secondary characters from the first book and I desperately wanted to find what happened to them. So, you can imagine my crushing disappointment when the next book was about preachy, annoying Janel with Kirhin playing a secondary role. I found the second book boring and while the discussions on gender were interesting the first few hundred times, it did get a bit annoying after a while ( I know I exaggerate but did I tell you how disappointed I was?).  I started to reread the series before buying Book 5 in the series but couldn’t face

300 pages of preachy Janel, so, I skipped book 2 without missing another that adding to the story in the third book. There is a helpful summary of the events of book 2 at the start of Memory of Souls.

The plot in book three drags in the middle with t far too many conversations between people which is a shame as the author’s descriptions of food, clothes and places really bring Kirhin’s world to life. The characters in book three all sound the same and sound far too modern day for this kind of book.

The ugly

I wouldn’t call the series grimdark but the first book does have some dark parts. The ruin of Kings opens up with a naked, 16- year- old being sold as a slave and almost put me off reading anymore. There are scenes of physical abuse and implied rape to a child ( a 15-year-old is a child in my view and even if consensual is still wrong on so many levels). This is addressed in the book instead of being glossed over.

This is another series where  I almost didn’t finish the first book because of graphic descriptions of sexual and physical violence but not present in the subsequent books. Is this a trend or trope I’m not aware of?

Romance

There a complicated, messy romance between Kirhin, Janel and Terarth but it isn’t your usual love triangle. There are also romantic plots between several of the other secondary characters

Any cliffhangers

Yes, at the end of each book. After reading the last page and that ending in Memory of Souls, I have to find out what happens next in the House of Always.

Perfect for Fans of

Games of Thrones, Lymond Chronicles, Captive Prince Trilogy

Summary

4 stars. I recommend this ambitious series but have knocked a star off for the second book and draggy middle of the third book.

I can’t wait to read the next book and will update this review once done.