Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P Beaulieu

I completed Twelve Kings a couple of days ago and still feel a bit blown away to be honest.  This was a great read that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It gets off to a gripping start and then continues to grip you for the rest of the story.  I kid you not, when this arrived my first thought was ‘how many pages!!’.  When I completed it – my first thought was ‘Are you sure there were that many pages – I want more??’ This is without doubt an epic story.  It brings to us a great protagonist and it’s set in a world that is simply fascinating to read about.  I loved this book and my only regret is that I now have to wait for the second in series!  Dark Magic, Immortals, Undead, Secrets and one young woman trying to uncover her own destiny.

I don’t know if I really want to discuss the plot – Twelve Kings is a deeply layered book, full of mystery and one of the really enjoyable aspects of the story, for me, was the way things were gradually revealed to the reader.  I suppose the main thrust of the plot is one of a powerful city, ruled by cruel (and immortal) Kings.  Understandably the people wish to rid themselves of these tyrants but years of oppression have beat most of them into hopeless acquiescence.  The Twelve Kings, hundreds of years ago, struck a deal with the Gods.  The Kings became the rulers of Sharakhai for which the Gods demanded, and in fact still demand, a blood sacrifice.  Of course, it’s considered to be a great honour to be chosen to serve your city in this way – although the screams and protests that can be heard ringing through the City on the holy night (Beht Zha’ir) when these blood sacrifices are chosen would beg to differ. Now, stirring in the shadows is something of a resistance movement.  They’re becoming stronger by the day.  On top of that we have another element of the story where a man seeks revenge for the murder of his wife and child.  Aided by the dark blood magic of his sister-in-law he seeks the murderer.  Finally, we have Ceda, a young woman of 19.  She hates the Kings and seeks their death.  The path of these three are going to cross in a most intriguing fashion.

Okay, plot aside.  What did I love about this story.  Firstly, the world building.  This is no weakly imagined world that relies on purely the strength of imagination of the reader.  The author paints a vivid picture of this world.  He fills it with spices and colours, he populates it with intriguing characters and he fleshes it out with a rich history and fascinating religious aspects and customs.  This is a world of heat and light with shifting sands traversed by boat caravans.  A world of deep contrasts with Kings on high who have little in common with the regular people who live, in the large part, in abject poverty.

At the start of the story we’re introduced to Ceda – I admit it, I love this character.  She fights in the pits and has gathered a reputation.  The people love watching her in these gladiator style games and she’s become something of a favourite.  Ceda has lived a tough life.  Her mother died at an early age and although she was placed in the care of a guardian after a few years she ran away choosing to live life on the streets.  An existence that has turned her into a tough nut.  In spite of the tough exterior, Ceda is soft on the inside – she has a particularly soft spot for Emre who has been like her brother out on the streets.  They ran in a gang but over the years only Emre and Ceda remain fast friends, looking out for each other and sharing a small home.

In terms of the fantasy elements to the story.  Well, clearly there are the Twelve Kings – now immortal and then there’s the backstory of how they came to be in this position.  There are the dark magical elements that are revealed during those chapters where Ramahd and Meryam play a part and there are of course the Asirim – I don’t quite know how to describe them really, they’re the undead creatures who reap the harvest for the next blood sacrifice.  They are scary critters indeed and you can almost feel a chill fall over the world like a dark cloud whenever they enter the story.  There are prophecies to be fullfilled here, secrets to be uncovered and memories long since forgotten to be re invoked.

One of my favourite aspects of the world building is the chapters that take you back in years to reveal a fascinating aspect in Ceda’s history.  I loved these, they could have the effect of pulling you out of the story and I admit that in some stories that’s exactly what happens but here these extra chapters really work well.  Not only do they give you a great insight into Ceda but they’re always necessary to the story.  These are not to be skimmed over – they’re all important chapters with stories of relevance to the unfolding plot.

So, all in all, Great world building.  A fascinating and tightly written plot that reveals new secrets along the way and ends on a winning note.  Characters that you can really care about, particularly Ceda – who isn’t perfect, she makes mistakes and she’s frankly not always right with her assumptions – but she’s still fantastic to read about.  And, great writing.  I haven’t read this author before but on the strength of this novel that’s something that I intend to rectify.

A positively gripping opening, a wonderful story, vivid setting and an equally gripping finale.  Bring on No.2 please.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book to readers of epic fantasy – it’s simply wonderful and compelling to read.

I received a copy courtesy of the author and I’m so pleased to have received this book for review.  The above is my own opinion.

Now check out both these amazing covers – I can’t choose between them.  I love the vibrancy and colour of the first plus the imagery of the girl walking alone through the thorns.  The second is absolutely gorgeous and amazing in scope and detail:

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24 Responses to “Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P Beaulieu”

  1. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    OK, I know Mogsy also love this, so now I need to get my hands on a copy after seeing your rave review. I like the top cover better, because well, girl with two swords!, and plus just overall, probably prefer the aesthetics of it.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, the girl with two swords is pretty cool – and Ceda is an awesome character. I loved this book. It just has such a lot going for it.
      LYnn 😀

  2. Tammy

    I’ve been hearing a lot about this lately and I’ll have to check it out. It sounds amazing!

    • lynnsbooks

      It was great. The writing was really good. the world building thorough and the main character just excellent. Plus great opening, loads of secrets and a jaw dropping finale.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Libby Cole Author

    Sounds like this is so well-written – good world building is essential for this genre!

  4. thefictionalreader

    I was already anticipating the release of this book as the synopsis sounds epic. But after reading your review, I need to make it a priority! It sounds amazing. Worldbuilding is one of the most important aspects of epic fantasy, so hearing you say such great things about it makes me so excited to read it. Great review!

    • lynnsbooks

      It was amazing. I really enjoyed it and Ceda is a great character. I hope you enjoy it and please point me to your review in case I miss it.
      Lynn 😀

      • thefictionalreader

        Thanks! I may take a while to get it though because it’s so expensive… even the kindle book is $21. What? Hoping to get it soon though! 😀

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Oh my goodness, this was amazing, simply spellbinding. I am so glad we can flail together about the awesomeness of this book 🙂

    And you know what’s interesting, I only just now noticed in the UK the book is known as only “Twelve Kings”, at least according to that cover. I agree, they are both gorgeous, but for once I feel the US version wins out because of the beautiful colors.

    • lynnsbooks

      I love finding a book to flail to!
      I thought that I was misreading the cover – that why I titled mine the US version.
      Lynn 😀

  6. jessicabookworm

    I like both covers! It was the first cover though that caught my attention on Netgalley. I’m sad I didn’t request it, after reading your thoughts but I do have too many galleys at the moment!

    • lynnsbooks

      I know what you mean – too many good books going round for the past couple of months and impossible to keep up with them all!
      Lynn 😀

  7. Three Great New Reviews of Twelve Kings! – Bradley P. Beaulieu

    […] The second is from Lynn’s Books: […]

  8. thecurioussffreader

    Great review ! I pre-order it after reading a review on the sffworld website and now I just can’t wait to read it 🙂 I personally prefer the UK cover but it’s true that the US one is also very nice with all the details.

    • lynnsbooks

      The UK cover is very dramatic. I hope you enjoy the book and point me in the direction of your review when you complete it I’d like to see what you made of it.
      Lynn 😀

  9. stephenwgee

    First heard about this book from the B&N cover reveal, but now I know I definitely need to read it. World-building is one of the things I need to get better at myself, and seeing it done well seems like a great way to improve.

    • lynnsbooks

      This is a great book to read for world building. It’s really excellent. Thanks for stopping by.
      Lynn 😀

  10. proxyfish

    This sounds fantastic! I’ll definitely be looking out for it.

  11. August brings the sheaves of corn… |

    […] Twelve Kings by Bradley P Beaulieu […]

  12. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    We wantss thisss, precioussssss….. 😀

    • lynnsbooks

      Hey – I just saw a giveaway for this on the Bibliosanctum – get on that.
      Lynn 😀

  13. Waiting on Wednesday: With Blood Upon the Sand (The Song of the Shattered Sands #2) by Bradley P. Beaulieu | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] read that was on my year end ‘best of’ list for 2015.  Highly recommended (my review here).  Anyway, to the detail, starting with two dramatically different and yet equally gorgeous […]

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