~unbezahlte Werbung / ad – Thank you to Rob J. Hayes for providing me with a copy of his book. All opinions are my own.~
The City of Kings by Rob J. Hayes is the second book I read for TBRindr, the platform that matches indie authors with reviewers likely to enjoy their book. For me personally, it seems to work pretty great since I loved the first book I reviewed for it, The Great Hearts by David Oliver, and I loved this book just as much. Hayes is currently well-known for his book Where Loyalties Lie since it won the 3rd round of SPFBO, a contest for indie authors hosted by Mark Lawrence.
Once the Wilds were ruled by the so-called blooded, noble houses that devided the land amongst themselves to rule over. Now Rose and her husband The Black Thorn have united the people of the Wilds and the final battle against the blooded and their army is imminent. They fortified themselves in Crucible, the last blooded fortress still standing and as good as impregnable. But Rose, being the silent leader of this war, is heavily pregnant and wants to sit on the throne before her baby is born.
This was my first time reading a book by Hayes and I can definitely see why his books are so popular. The story is told from multiple perspectives that reflect Hayes great talent for writing unique characters: We have Rose, wife of The Black Thorn and leader of the army that wants to free The Wilds. Although she was the one character I couldn’t connect to, she is a great example for strong women in fantasy that are willing to sacrifice a lot to achieve their goal. Then we have The Black Thorn who some readers might recognize from earlier books by Hayes. Most of the soliders in Rose’s army seem to think he is the one in charge and his reputation and participation in the war fuels the people’s morale. Another character is Henry, a longtime companion of The Black Thorn with scars all over her face who brings her assassin’s skills to the table. Then we have Anders who is the son of the most powerful noble left in Crucible and a notorious drunk. Albeit being a rather tragic character, Anders is a very interesting not only for adding a touch of supernatural but also for story depth since he bridges the gap between The Wilds and the blooded.This book is listed as grimdark fantasy for a very good reason. Most of the plot consists of brutal warfare and Hayes doesn’t shy away from describing every gory detail. Especially one of Henry’s chapters, which showed her in the right in the middle of battle before Crucible’s main gate, was very intense and demonstrated perfectly how cruel and traumatizing war can be. There are some smaller settings here and there throughout the story that add some fantastic elements to the book. We have creatures such as undead, trolls and Drurr that expand the story even further and let me turn the pages excitedly. But even though the Drurr and the undead seemed to be fierce and dangerous, the trolls were portrayed as rather harmless giants. I found myself even feeling very compassionate for them at certain points. I think Hayes intented for the reader to feel that way to possibly show that it’s not always the fantastical creatures that are the real monsters.
Due to The City of Kings being grimdark fantasy, there are a lot of trigger warnings for this book and it’s definitely not a story for you if you don’t like too much detailed battle scenes and a lot of very graphic violence.
If you are a fan of Joe Abercrombie, especially his unique, characters with quirky names, I highly recommend you check out Hayes newest book City of Kings! It’s a great combination of great character development and fast-paced storytelling that will stay with you long after you turned the last page.