I came across for the Killing of Kings when I was looking for a book to scratch my itch for epic fantasy and world building – preferably one I could alternate between listening via audiobook and reading at night. One of my favorite things to do for long car rides is to listen to books that have lots of details as it is so easy to get caught up in the world. Based on the summary and the promise of a high fantasy adventure I was extremely excited to jump in.
The synopsis promises a story that is a cross between Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber and The Three Musketeers. I, of course, have a basic idea of The Three Musketeers, but not anything in-depth. However, I was not familiar at all with the Chronicles of Amber series that began being published in 1978. While my TBR list on GoodReads is filled with older high fantasy series like Wheel of Time, Farseer Trilogy, Mists of Avalon and other similar stories that I had not come across Chronicles of Amber (I quickly added that also to my TBR).
Our story starts off with an Alteneri (think knights that have magic and defend the realm) named Asrahn, discovering that a famed sword, Irion, is a fake. Why is that important and why do we care if a replica has been made of a sword? Well this blade is centered to a prophecy that says it will take the life of the king of a neighboring land, who is in ongoing conflict with this kingdom. The Naor and the people of Darassus have been warring on and off for a long time but have been mostly at peace for the last seven years – and that peace hangs on the edge of a sword – Irion. If it gets out that the sword is fake, it is likely that the Naor will resume their invasions and potentially overpower Darassus.
When Asrahn confronts others in the Alteneri sect about the replica sword he is murdered to keep silent. However, his questioning of the sword to his squire Elenai and his behavior raises the attention of Kyrkenall – a famed but somewhat derelict Alteneri that has recently returned to Darassus. Realizing that he is the perfect scapegoat for Asrahn’s murder, as he is known as a drunk and a madman, he is pursued. He and squire Elenai escape the clutches of the traitorous sect of Altenerai and set off to find the real Irion – but stumble into a conspiracy that involves the Darassan queen.
The pair travels far and wide – across the kingdom and into other realms entirely. They meet friends, foes, friends long thought lost, and monsters that turn out to be friends.
Additionally, we are introduced to Rylin, who is also a student studying to become Altenerai. He independently discovers the deception and conspiracy with the help of an uncannily bright woman by the name of Varama. His story is more or less a contrast to Elenai’s as he works to unravel the mystery and deception from inside the kingdom.
Howard’s writing style and the book in general was a slow burn for me – which are the perfect books to listen to as an audiobook in my opinion (the narrator is also great by the way). Each action causes a reaction and it all slowly builds on one another. While you may not immediately realize that things of importance are happening, they certainly are and you can see the threads being carefully woven for future plot points. What you think might be a simple adventure from point A to point B quickly detours into several side quests that become of up-most of importance. While this might not always be a good thing, the world Howard creates is so rich and beautiful you find yourself along for the ride.
Throughout the book you are exposed to a wide range of characters – all with different goals and motivations (some clear, like our heroes) but most are a swirling grey that you think you may understand but ultimately you probably do not. Even amongst the heroes, their goals are often at odds with one another. This book ultimately has an intrigue type feel where you are not sure who you can trust and who ultimately might end up being the bad guys.
In full disclosure, I am always somewhat weary of reading male fantasy authors due to them often time writing women in an unflattering light or overly sexualizing them. Howard does a fantastic job of making the women in his book some of the strongest characters and absolute integral parts to the narrative. Elenai was ultimately my favorite to read as I loved her character development and arc.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to jumping into Upon the Flight of The Queen. We leave this book with a lot of questions and I cannot wait to see how they play out in book two. If you enjoy epic fantasies and composition as well as world-building similar to that of Patrick Rothfuss, George R. Martin, and Brandon Sanderson – pick up this book when you are looking for your next read!