Books of the Shaper: Seven Kings by John R. Fultz – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

Seven Kings

Bane of Kings reviews the second book in the epic fantasy  Books of the Shaper series, Seven Kings, written by John R. Fultz and published by Orbit Books. 

“If you want proof that second novels are better than first outings, look no further than Seven Kings – Fultz has improved a lot from Seven Kings and although it may not be entirely perfect, Seven Kings shouldn’t be overlooked.” ~The Founding Fields

I read Seven Princes expecting something brilliant from John R. Fultz, but I came away dissapointed and it was only on a whim that I requested Seven Kings, the sequel – to review. And as it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised by what Fultz had to offer – Seven Kings manages to be everything that book one in the Books of the Shaper series should have been and more, keeping the reader enthralled and sticking around for volume three. I certainly enjoyed reading this book, but like I mentioned in the quote – it does have a few flaws which I’ll highlight on later in the review.

In the jungles of Khyrei, an escaped slave seeks vengeance and finds the key to a savage revolution.

In the drought-stricken Stormlands, the Twin Kings argue the destiny of their kingdom: one walks the path of knowledge, the other treads the road to war.

Beyond the haunted mountains King Vireon confronts a plague of demons bent on destroying his family.

With intrigue, sorcery, and war, Seven Kings continues the towering fantasy epic that began with Seven Princes.

Firstly, like Zachary Jernigan’s No Return that I reviewed earlier this week, Seven Kings (I still keep calling this book Seven Princes for some reason) is firmly in adult territory. It’s not for the squeamish, either – this book certainly delivers on the horror element of fantasy by managing to create, like the first book – a tale where nobody is safe and anyone can meet an unexpected end. It’s dark, action packed and very gory, with some twists and turns that are far from predictable. If you liked Princes then you should enjoy Kings even more than I did, because everything about this book is better than its predecessor.

Seven KingsSeven Princes is a book that could easily be read as a standalone and a reader would not have to worry about picking up the rest of the series, and Fultz has made sure with this volume to give people a greater incentive to read Book Three, Seven Sorcerers, by leaving the end of the novel as a way to set up the next act in this series. The characters are expanded upon, and we get to have multiple POVs from a variety of characters, the runaway slave Tong, King Vireon and his shape-shifting-sorceress wife Alua, Vireon’s troubled sister and her husband King D’zan are just a few of the large dramatis personae mentioned here, and at some point it can feel like you loose track of the characters and their adventures. The thing is with stories with such a  cast, some stories can have problems getting the balance right between giving characters enough time to make them stick in the reader’s minds for long. The mains strength of A Song of Ice and Fire was that the characters are all so damn memorable, and I could list many characters from that series as opposed to Seven Kings where I can at most name five. That’s because they aren’t well developed enough to stand out and make the reader want to root for them, which is a real shame for the first book had this problem as well – however, saying that – certain aspects of the cast become over the course of this book more developed than others.

The action is well written however and the storyline is enthralling, as Fultz manages to expand on the world that he has created and although not in much depth of the recently read No Return by Zachary Jernigan, it is still an strong exploration of the world and the standard fantasy map that we see at the beginning only enhances the tale. Fultz has a strong prose and it’s clear that he has experience with it, and his use of language is good as well. Our Princes that we saw in the first book have also changed from the first outing of Fultz, and the author has made it so that nobody is perfect, and other characters don’t really know who to trust.

So with that said, will I be reading the next book in the series, Seven Sorcerers? Did Seven Kings manage to convince me to Fultz’s side completely? I still think that this book could have done with a few more tweaks in places, such as character development, the amount of characters included and a few more moments of originality added to the book. But aside from that, Seven Kings is stronger than its predecessor, and as a result, I will be seeing if Fultz can take the series one step further with Seven Sorcerers and build on where he went wrong.

VERDICT: 3.5/5

THE BOOKS OF THE SHAPER SERIES: Seven PrincesSeven Kings, Seven Sorcerers (Jan 2014)

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer