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Bane of Kings reviews the début novel by John R. Fultz, Seven Princes, the first novel in the Books of the Shaper series and published by Orbit Books worldwide.
“A fantasy epic that will, despite its flaws, prove to be an enjoyable read.” ~The Founding Fields
I’ve been anticipating this début ever since I saw the awesome cover art on Orbit’s website sometime last year. However, if I’m being honest, I nearly didn’t pick up Seven Princes, after reading several negative reviews about it. But, in the end, the cover-art and the blurb won out, so I decided to give John R. Fultz a try, eager to see what a new author would bring to the epic fantasy. After all, novels such as the Riyria Revelations series by Michael J. Sullivan, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, and Wolfsangel by MD Lachlan have both proved that Epic Fantasy has still got some fight left in it, so I was wondering what new things would await me in Seven Princes.
And as it turned out, not much. Sure, there’s a variety of species that I’ve not seen much about explored in this novel, with everything from Giants to Sea-Serpents, but there’s nothing new to bring to epic fantasy, nothing that we haven’t seen before. As it turns out, Seven Princes shared several more things in common with my favourite Western movie, The Magnificent Seven, and perhaps, although I’ve not seen it, the sci-fi movie Battle Beyond the Stars as well. How does that work then? Well, let me show you:
In front of the disbelieving eyes of Prince D’zan, an ancient necromancer appears and slaughters his father and his court, driving the Prince from his kingdom with one goal in his mind, the desire to reclaim his throne. That’s very similar to The Magnificent Seven, except if you replace D’zan with farmers, and kingdom with village, and soon – I was beginning to wonder if I would stick with the novel at all. However, I was glad that I did, because what a novel Seven Princes turned out to be, and although it’s part of the Books of the Shaper series, Fultz could have probably taken out quite a few elements of this book and left the novel as a standalone.
Fultz here has created a novel with a fantastic prose that is well-written, and although the characters didn’t make you feel sorry for their plights, and although you didn’t really favour one more than the other, they were well created despite this flaw, as the author helps us see the world through their eyes, and through their means, even if they do seem somewhat simple.
Another thing that seemed to bug me about Seven Princes, although oddly not that much, was the fact that it’s pretty predictable. You know what’s going to happen at the end, and you know which side’s going to come out on top. However, the same can be said of the (mostly) fantastic, multi-author Horus Heresy series published by Black Library – those that are familiar with the worlds that it’s set in will know what happens, and it will be predictable all the way through, but that doesn’t stop readers enjoying the novel, and that is the what I found to be the case here, with Seven Princes. Predictable, but enjoyable.
The novel contained some epic battle scenes within its pages, ignoring the fact that they might have been a tad bit predictable – and I think there are some epic set-pieces that kept me reading, and got me really into the novel as a whole.
I mentioned earlier about the fact that the novel is predictable, but it’s not that predictable, if you get what I mean, for Fultz isn’t afraid to raze cities, knock off major characters, and destroy mighty vessels in order to do his best to keep the reader reading, and that is one of the things that I liked about this novel.
The pacing of Seven Princes is pretty uneven, and there are some parts where the action speeds through at a remarkable pace, whilst in others you will find yourself struggling to push through without skipping to the next scene, which I admit – is one of the disadvantages of reading a 500+ page novel, especially one by a début author – and one that’s epic fantasy.
However, all that said, I still think that this book kept me entertained enough to pick up the sequel upon its release. I’m going to say that you should give it a try, but don’t go in with high expectations.