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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 23 January 2009
I like this one. Good characters. Good story. Pacy. Puts her characters in difficult circumstances and asks them to make difficult choices and sometimes shocks you with their their resolution, yet at the same time manages to convince that the solution was the right one for the character concerned.I did keep wanting to find out what would happen next, so I hope she can keep it up through the series.
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VINE VOICEon 11 April 2010
First and foremost, I need to say that I enjoyed this, my first Fiona McIntosh book. She has a knack for surprises and doesn't shy away from grisly scenes - indeed, according the to author's notes, it was the most gory scene that got her started in writing this book.

However, there are problems. According to the author's notes there were three editors. Well, there's little evidence of that. For example, unless I am completely losing my mind, at least two of the characters learn something shocking on p298 1/3 of the way down only to, apparently, forget it because when they learn it again at the bottom of page 340 it comes as a surprise! I'd have thought an editor who actually read the book might have noticed.

Some of the language is clunky, or perhaps rushed - maybe the book needed another draft (or the intervention of an editor). There are aspects of the plot that are cliched and very obvious (such as the role of the former servant) whilst at other times she manages to surprise. The final issue I have is that the ending really isn't an ending - it's just that the pages run out.

As I said, I enjoyed the book and will continue to read the series.
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Well, previous reviewers seem to have enjoyed this a lot more then I did. I really enjoyed some of the author's previous work, she writes fantasy with a real dark edge and when she pulls it off it really works. Here it didn't come together for me, I found the pace a little slow and lacking the inventiveness previously displayed by the author. While the dark violent side is there, it just didn't engage me sufficiently to keep turning the pages. This is the first part of a trilogy and I'm sorry to say I shall probably not bother with the next two.
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on 26 April 2014
Easy to read, but with a predictable plot and uninspiring (and sometimes shallowly drawn) characters. The writing is frequently clunky and eye roll inducing. While it was an easy read and wasn't particularly offensive to my readerly sensibilities, I didn't care at all about the characters, or the plot. I won't be picking up the second book in the trilogy.
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on 9 December 2010
While I quite enjoyed the actual story in this book, I regret buying it and its sequel at the same time. I shan't be reading the sequel as the poor use of English was so jarring.

Suicides are described as murders, by people who witnessed them, censure is used when censor should have been. The book is littered with usages that are just not quite right, almost as though the author had a word of the day calendar with the meanings removed and she had to guess.

If you want an average fantasy story and you don't wince when you read someone use a word incorrectly, or just mis-describe an earlier event, then go for it. The story is OK, the characters are straight out of the fantasy character cliché box and the dialogue is... laboured. If you can live with that, then you've a stronger stomach than I. Actually less pleasant to read than Kevin J. Anderson.
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on 5 May 2009
Bought this book based on these reviews so thought it would be fair to tone down the undeserved praise a bit. What this book lacks is not so much a story, mediocre fantasy that it could have been, but an author that could do something with it. The characters are downright stupid, shallow and stereotypic. The plot is thin and full of glaring inconsistencies that can only be explained by the general stupidity and simplicity of the entire cast you have the misfortune to read about. And the author is painstakingly explaining everything that goes on in such a way that any potential suspense or "thrill" is destroyed. The many conversations in this story is stilted and if you somehow were unable to understand the "implications" of these conversations, never fear as the author is cheerfully explaining everything down to the smallest detail imaginary between the conversation lines. Go read Steven Erikson's Malazan books, if you haven't already, instead of buying this.
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on 3 April 2009
A great page-turner, so much so that I had a couple of late nights reading it as I found it difficult to put down. I like Fiona McIntosh and this series has started out strongly and so I have high hopes for the rest of the series. Her characters are always well defined and she is not afraid to shock if its serves the plot (or the tension!). As a minor criticism, I just wonder whether some of the themes of her other books will be repeated (will one of the characters turn into a bird perhaps?) and I will be disappointed if those plot devices crop up again, but not enough to stop buying the books or enjoying them enormously!
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on 15 January 2010
The Kingdom of Penraven is under siege. Outside the walls of the capital stand a barbarien warlord at the head of an army from the eastern steppes. Already has he subdued the surrounding kingdoms of Barronel, Vorgraven, Cremond, Gormand & Dregon. Although Penraven had always been the strongest of the lot, its chances against the barbarian look slim and defeat seem certain. Soon the walls will be stormed, the city taken and the king executed. Likely after prolonged torture. He knows this, but chooses not to run, but rather stand with his people until the end. For his heir, however, he has other plans. He wish not for the 13 year old son to fall into the hands of the barbarian. So he task his best friends oldest (17) son with the task of protecting the heir. And when the time comes, to escape with him from the city and into the surrounding country side. Not only that, but the king wish for his heir to be returned to his rightful throne. Something that will require these two young lads to somehow spawn an insurrection strong enough to topple the barbarian usurper. Not only that, they have to do so while actively being hunted by the forces of the barbarian as well as turncoats, traitors and spies.

An interesting setup. Sadly it is ruined by its execution. The characters are very simple, nearly cartoonish characters where good people are GOOD and bad people are BAD. There is no middle ground. They are also very much alike and sometimes it can become hard to notice who is speaking. The following quote was especially grating. It is spoken by the one apparently most eager for the death of the heir, who at this point has become king since his father is now dead. "He is a symbol of freedom, a rallying point, a hook upon which to hang an entire region's hope! Faith is an incredibly powerful force, especially among those who have been crushed. As long as King Leonel is at large, the people of the Set [the conquered kingdoms] will endure."

Can you imagine George W. Bush referring to Osama Bin Laden in the same way?

Unlike most fantasy books, much of what happens is explained explicitly. So you never wonder why someone did something. You also know their motives precisely. This is not a good change from the norm. The explanations of how the world works takes place in teacher-student conversations, where an all-knowing teacher explains everything to the nothing-knowing student. Which is practical for the characters, but feels fake and some times very weird to the readers. Need to learn something about a very old, very rare type of magic that the kings have spent the last 500 years trying to destroy all knowledge about? Why luckily enough, one of the two sent to find it just happens to know everything about it. And off course he knows it, he used to work as a guidance councilor at a university. They just know stuff like that. No need to explain how in heavens name he came to know that.

If I disliked it that much, then why didn't I give it just a single star?

Well, I don't think I'm in the correct target group for this book. This book strikes me as something a young boy might thoroughly enjoy. It is simple. Theres not too many hard words. Theres few characters, motives and other things to remember, The story is straight forward and well explained. Its also something an adult could plausible give a young kid, without worrying too much over whats in it. Yes, it has its gory moments, but more in the over-the-top scary movie kind of way. Something boys might enjoy, but won't suffer too many nightmares from. At least thats my perception. Thus for fans of longer, complicated and more mature fantasy, this is a no-buy. But for others, it might be an excellent buy. A starting point for a long and joyful voyage into the realm of fantasy.
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on 22 March 2009
As a Reymond Feist and Trudy Cavanar fan,I am sooo glad I found this author and I can really recommend this book and I cannot wait for the next one.
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