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Years ago, ten thousand Macht mercenaries marched into the heart of the Asurian Empire and were betrayed. Only a handful of survivors, led by the famous warrior Rictus, escaped to see home. In the years since then, Rictus has lived through times of peace and war, standing alongside the legendary Corvus as he forged the fractious Macht cities into a single nation. The Macht have now re-invaded the Empire, this time deploying new weapons and strategies that baffle their enemies. But their greatest ally is the division and turmoil that seethes in the heart of the Empire, as the imperial household is divided at the very moment it needs to unify against the invaders.

Kings of Morning is the third and concluding book in Paul Kearney's Macht sequence, which began with 2008's excellent The Ten Thousand and continued with 2010's even better Corvus. As with those books, Kings of Morning mixes fantasy with historical fiction and even a hint of SF: Kuf, the planet on which the books take place, is apparently an alien world and the Macht seem to be the descendants of human settlers/invaders, with the natives a notably different humanoid race. The influence of Alexander the Great on Corvus's story is clear, meaning the general trajectory of the plot can be a little predictable. However, Kearney mixes things up enough to ensure the story never gets stale.

Structurally, the novel is a little different to its two predecessors, which focused almost completely on Rictus's point of view. The opening quarter or so of the novel shows a political crisis within the heart of the Empire, as the brutish heir to the imperial throne, Kouros, and his younger brother engage in a bitter feud, with their father apparently unwilling to intervene. A hapless slave boy is unwittingly caught in the middle of this dispute, to his ruin (a strong stomach is required for the scenes where he is tortured by Kouros). This is an interesting way of starting the book and demonstrates Kearney's impressive power of concise storytelling without sacrificing depth. In this story the Macht are a vague and distant threat, easily dismissed, until it's almost too late.

We then switch back to Corvus, Rictus and the Macht army on the march and are soon back into a world of strategy meetings, comradeship and desperate battles against superior numbers. Yet Kearney, for all his reputation as one of the finest writers of battles working today (in either fantasy or historical fiction), keeps the martial action at a distance for most of the book, instead focusing on Rictus's character development as he sees the culmination of Corvus's plans and starts thinking about his own future. The conflict in Rictus between the lifelong soldier who tires of peace but hates the waste of war is developed well throughout the book and contrasted against the world-weariness of the Asurian Great King, Ashurnan.

Kearney's skills of characterisation are impressive, particularly the attention he gives to Kouros. Though an unthinking, thin-skinned brute, Kouros is given a backstory and motivation that explain why he is the way he is without ever risking him becoming sympathetic, and developing him as a villain (if he's even competent enough to be called that) much more than beyond the initial impression the reader gets of him. Kearney also undercuts the storyline of the two royal twins and their mutilated servant trying to flee into the wilds, with it moving in some very unexpected directions (even if the ultimate destination is unsurprising).

Kearney restrains the military activity to a few brief descriptions of sieges and negotiated truces before giving us one large battle. Inspired by several of Alexander's engagements, the Battle of Gaugamesh is an impressive display of depicting a complex engagement spread over a large battlefield in a straightforward manner. Kearney's skills at writing warfare remain undimmed, but it's his depiction of the aftermath, of the mix of disgust at the waste of life of war and admiration of the heroism of those who endure such hellish circumstances, which impresses the most.

The novel climaxes in a surprising fashion. Whether the parallels between Corvus and Alexander will continue or not is something that is not answered, as this trilogy is the story of Rictus, and that story ends impressively with Kings of Morning. We bow out of the story at this point with the full impression that life will go on regardless.

Criticisms are hard to find. The novel is very concise and at times the reader will want more information, more character scenes, more battle sequences, but these are not necessary for the story Kearney is telling. In epic fantasy it is rare to find an author who leaves the reader wanting more rather than feeling over-stuffed on thousands of pages of needless filler, and the former is definitely preferable. Some may feel the novel lacks a full resolution to Corvus's story, which is fair, but then this trilogy is not about Corvus and it certainly finishes Rictus's story in fine form. Finally, some may feel we don't get any revelations of note about the (possibly techno-organic) black armour of the Macht that makes them so difficult to kill, but again Kearney gives us some clues to be going on with and there are few possible explanations for it that would not veer towards either the obvious or the cheesy.

Overall then, Kings of Morning (*****) is a superb military fantasy novel and a fine conclusion to one of the best epic fantasy/historical fiction crossovers of recent years. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
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on 25 February 2013
This has a good core set of characters and some nice ideas, it doesn't feature many battles,
which is good since they hurt the previous book.

The enemy are portrayed intelligently with realistic motives and the intrigues are good.

The problem here is that the book often reads like a history text book, it moves away from characters to a dull description of events that makes it feel almost like a biography of Alexander The Great.

This doesn't make it a bad book but it is certainly easy to put down, you are never drawn into the story to the point where you need to see what happens next.

Workmanlike rather than special.
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on 8 September 2014
Third in the series and as far as I can tell there are no more yet. The story moves on from the previous novel in almost a straight line, I love the way Paul Kearney writes, its simply great work. if I were to try to explain a sea journey for our hero, I am sure it would be dull and exhaust my little knowledge of crossing oceans on a sail driven ship. Paul Kearney has absolutely researched and researched and uses probably only part of what he choice to learn in order to write in interesting details about such a voyage, and that is where he wins. I suspect a very small part of the information he acquires finds its way onto the page, but in taking the trouble to learn so much on my behalf, he manages to convey such wonderful images that I forget I don't really know as much as he and can easily set the scene in my head. The whole story moves forward and although the book comes to a climax, I feel the story is far from over, it is my hope that there will be more as I loved all three books, just great story telling, thank you Paul.
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I've loved this fantasy series by Paul Kearney since the first outing a couple of years ago. The action is fast and hard hitting which when backed with solid writing, a decent plot line and of course a whole host of characters that bring the Greek's Vs Persians to a fantasy world, really gives the reader a real tale of guts and glory as they wend their way into history.

The writing has great pace, the characters flaws and when backed with Paul's understanding of what a fantasy reader wants in a story, makes this a title that's hard to not only put down but finish as a number of the characters have become readers friends throughout their exploits. Finally add to the mix some wonderful dialogue backed with a great sense of timing and all in it's a great conclusion to a cracking series.
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on 5 June 2015
Paul Kearney is an author who meticulously ensures that the plot, the characters , the characters interactions, countries, in fact the whole deal is without error or fault.. If you see any of his books it will be a flawless, thought provoking read. As may be obvious I feel that he is an outstanding writer in his field. I would like to think that if you haven't read anything by him my review will encourage you to take the plunge and I would like to hope that you also will become a long term admirer.
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on 19 July 2012
Kearney is one of my faourite authors, his books are generally gritty, full of violence and realism. This is no exception, based loosely on Alexander the great the book and series read almost like historical fiction with a limited amount of fantasy elements.

This is not a book about good versus evil rather a book about a man's thirst for conquest and those that oppose him. Highly recommended if you enjoy the more modern approach to fantasy.
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I couldn't wait to discover how Paul Kearney would bring The Macht trilogy to a close. Both The Ten Thousand and Corvus had set the stage for an unforgettable finale, and the author didn't disappoint! Kings of the Morning closes the show with a bang and opens the door for more sequels. A veritable master of military fantasy, Kearney's The Macht trilogy is one of the very best SFF series of the new millennium.

Here's the blurb:

For the first time in recorded history, the ferocious city-states of the Macht now acknowledge a single man as their overlord. Corvus, the strange and brilliant boy-general, is now High King, having united his people in a fearsome, bloody series of battles and sieges. He is not yet thirty years old. A generation ago, ten thousand of the Macht marched into the heart of the ancient Asurian Empire, and fought their way back out again, passing into legend. Corvus's father was one of those who undertook that march, and his most trusted general, Rictus, was leader of those ten thousand. But he intends to do more. The preparations will take years, but when they are complete, Corvus will lead an invasion the like of which the world of Kuf has never seen. Under him, the Macht will undertake nothing less than the overthrow of the entire Asurian Empire.

Kings of Morning is the thrilling conclusion to Paul Kearney's Macht trilogy.

Once again, this novel is dark and gritty military fantasy at its best. And yet, even though Kings of the Morning is at times all about the stark realism of military campaigns, Paul Kearney delivers more than a few poignant and touching moments that demonstrate just how gifted an author he can be.

It's no secret that Kearney has always been known for his brevity. In the past, his books featured minimal worldbuilding that didn't intrude on the storytelling, and the narrative was never bogged down by frustrating info-dumps or long-winded elaborations. And yet, for the first time, I felt that Kings of the Morning would have worked even better had it been longer. Several storylines converge and are brought together, and though the book makes for an incredible reading experience, I feel that it would have benefited from a higher page count. True, Kearney was able to build on the events of both The Ten Thousand and Corvus, which allowed him to flesh out his world and its people to no small degree. But still, just a bit more depth would have made Kings of the Morning the fantasy novel of the year. As was the case with its predecessor, the narrative is written with tight focus, keeping the pace fluid and making Kings of the Morning impossible to put down.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Paul Kearney doesn't get the credit he deserves for his characterization. Once more, the man came up with a disparate yet amazing cast of characters for this one. Much like in Corvus, there is also a great balance between the various POV sections, with the novel focusing in turn on Rictus, the slave boy Kurun, the Great King Ashurnan, Lady Orsana, and Prince Kouros. Seeing events unfold through the eyes of such different protagonists imbues this book with a human touch that elevates this work far above what is the norm in military fantasy offerings.

I doubted that the author could outdo himself and top Corvus. And yet, he did just that! Kings of the Morning delivers on all fronts. As is usually Kearney's wont, the book features terrific pace, a grim and stark setting, superb characterization, and bloody and violent battles. Doubtless, Kings of the Morning definitely is Paul Kearney writing at the top of his game.

A brutal and uncompromising, yet surprisingly touching, tale of warfare and conquest written by what could well be the most underrated talent in genre. That's Kings of the Morning in a nutshell.

Paul Kearney has written one of the fantasy novels to read this year. Kings of the Morning is a sure candidate for the best fantasy book of 2012!

Along with C. S. Friedman's the Magister trilogy and R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing, Paul Kearney's The Macht trilogy can stand tall as one of the best speculative fiction series to have been published since the turn of the millennium. And like these aforementioned series, Kearney's latest creation remains inexplicably underrated and criminally unread. . .

An awesome conclusion to a superior fantasy series.

Check out Pat's Fantasy Hotlist!
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on 1 March 2015
Third one I,ve read they remind me of some of David Gemmell's work good plot great characters that you want to follow. Worth a try.
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on 22 October 2014
And here it ends....Sadly
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on 9 July 2015
Excellent story
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