#SPFBO Finalist: The Weight of a Crown by Tavish Kaeden
The Weight of a Crown by Tavish Kaeden was one of my SPFBO reads and in fact is the book I’ve put forward to the next round. I really enjoyed this, not without some reservations, but on the whole I thought it was well written and entertaining and a good start to a series that I will definitely continue to read.
I’m going to try and be brief with the plot – to be honest with you this story is set on an epic scale and so to really do it justice here would probably take too much time and eventually turn into a short story in itself.
The setting is Esmoria, which has known more than it’s fair share of conflict but is finally being ruled by one king (or at least they were until his death) – not, however, without a fair share of resentment on the parts of the other two races outlined in the story.The Bloodmarsh are the conquerors – the king-that-was had visions of a great empire living in peace, his death leaves a great void, felt even more by his people as the Prince is also missing (believed dead). In their place serves a regent known as Bokrham. The court is becoming a difficult place to rule though and trouble is brewing.
The other two races that we meet in this story are the Curahshar – a desert people with fierce warriors. They are ultimately ruled by a Grand Johalid who reigns in The Heart of Sands (a sacred city that lies deep within the desert). The Curahsar seem to be cursed by a strange plague which attacks their warriors leaving them vulnerable, weak and confused and which ultimately led to their defeat.
The Hinnjar live in the Silver Mountains. They were conquered after a protracted siege where starvation became their biggest enemy.
That’s the make up and lie of the land in a nutshell – albeit a tiny nutshell for the purpose of this review.
Now to the characters, of which there is no shortage. The four main pov characters are as follows:
We start off reading about Jeina. After being caught stealing Jeina has been sent to a mining camp (where silver is sought to help fund Prince Tobin’s exploits (Tobin is Hinnjar and has dreams of retaking his throne). Life in the camp is hard, cold and lonely. Jeina spends the majority of her day crawling through tiny tunnels looking for the telltale signs of silver – that is until she makes a scary discovery that results in the mine being closed indefinitely. Jeina is going to meet with an unexpected opportunity to escape – she will be followed however and by something quite unspeakably evil.
Next we meet Nicolas, an engraver’s apprentice whose livelihood is threatened by the strange seizures that he sometimes experiences and which now seem to be occurring with more frequency. His life is about to be changed irrevocably by a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger who wishes to buy out his bond.
Xasho is a Curahshar warrior. Accompanied by a small band of warriors and their captain Boskaheed, they’re about to try and reclaim one of their lost cities – an enterprise that frankly goes horribly wrong. Xasho manages to escape but becomes confused along the way and comes across a strange place where he finds a pair of short swords that possess strange magic and start to control the way in which Xasho fights. At this stage we have no idea whether this magic is good or evil but we share the visions that Xasho is now experiencing and that will eventually tell the story of these weapons and their previous owner.
Bokhram is the regent currently taking the reins over the Blood Marsh. Court politics and internal bickering are becoming more of a problem by the day whilst the nobles fight for position. Some of them directly claiming rights to the throne. Bokhram is barely keeping control and not knowing just how tentative his position really is is about to make something of a dubious deal himself.
Obviously there are more characters. We spend time with Tobin – a very unsavoury character who enlists the help of a blacksmith named Isic. Tobin and Isic both have their own ambitions and between them they’re about to release something dark and sinister from within the mines – not just to release either – but to try and control. We have the strange character that Nicolas’ fate has become entwined with and we have Jeina who manages to find help from a character called Fezi.
All of the four pov characters are about to set off on their own journey, a couple of them meet up during the course of this story and I suspect that they may all finally meet at some point. In the meantime we have a great combination of battles, championship jousts, court politics, intrigue, evil creatures who have the ability to control minds, escape, and, well, more.
This is a very readable story and it’s well written. I’m totally intrigued with where it will go next and will certainly continue the journey to see where book 2 takes me.
In terms of criticisms. Well, whilst I think the characters were well thought out I think I would have liked a bit more spark from them as at the moment I’m not sure how I really feel about them. For example Jeina. She’s a contradictory type of character who goes from an almost death situation to being helped by a kind stranger to then making demands – and this is something that she does tend to do quite often. I also felt that she lacked something somehow. She’s just kind of buffeted along and relies quite heavily on others. However, I also have the strange feeling that there’s more to her that we haven’t yet discovered and I wonder if, even unbeknownst to herself, she has some sort of magic that allows her to compel people to help her or bend them to her will – I guess we’ll see. I do think the characters are well done but I think maybe some sharper dialogue or banter would have brought them more to life somehow. That being said I do think the characters showed improvement in that respect as the story moved forward. There is also very much a set up feel to this story – it’s not something that I mind to be honest because there’s a lot going on here (plus no shortage of plot and action) and I’m glad that the author takes the time to properly line things up.
On the whole I really enjoyed this. I think the writing is very good. It’s a big book and yet I never had the inclination to put it down and leave it to one side in fact I think that there is nothing wasted in the writing at all – it kept me entertained throughout and compelled me to keep reading.