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Promising Start to a Trilogy
on 20 October 2009
The barbarian horde of the Likurian Steppes moved from the east and conquered the Denova Set. Cremond, Barronel, Gormand, Dregon and Vorgaven fell before Loethar's barbarian army. Penraven, the most powerful kingdom of the Set is the the last one standing, however the end is near. King Brennus of Penraven has to take difficult decisions in order to preserve the life of the only Valisar heir, Prince Leonel.
I hadn't read any of Fiona McIntosh's books before and I was pretty excited when I received a review copy of Royal Exile. As I've been reading the books of the Malazan of the Fallen series, I'm always looking for interesting books to alternate between two Malazan books. So I was hoping to find an interesting story in Royal Exile. Especially when I read what Robin Hobb had to say about Royal Exile, it raised my expectations for Fiona McIntosh's work.
Fiona McIntosh's style is very smooth and easy to get used to. That makes the book very easy to read. The first hundred or so pages, the introductory chapters, went without much excitement. Just when I was getting worried that it was going to be a story full of clichés and not enough action, things sped up and the book gained a steady momentum. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the pages were turning fast with my desire to know more.
I love complex world building in fantasy & sci-fi books. However the world building in Royal Exile is probably done at a bare minimum to keep the story going with some hidden secrets left for the future. I'm hoping to hear more about the Set and its surroundings in the future installments.
My feelings towards the characters in the story have been very mixed. I cared for a few of them. Some others didn't seem believable enough. In more than one occasion, I scratched my head asking myself "would I or anyone do that in the same situation?" On the other hand, I welcomed the late-introduction of other protagonists, and interesting ones in that, who promise a superior upcoming book. Royal Exile started mainly with a single story thread, however, to my joy, Fiona McIntosh carefully crafted multiple parallel threads in the second half of the book.
Royal Exile is a well-written, easy-to-read book. Its plot is captivating despite the shallowness of the world building and of most of its characters. The first book of the Valisar Trilogy is a promising one and I, for one, am looking forward to read the second book.