tl;dr: Kingshold is an excellent debut fantasy debut that is a great cocktail of satire, intrigue and magic.
Kingshold is one of those serendipitous moments that happens in life. I was randomly browsing through twitter when I saw that the author had asked for reviews of his forthcoming book – the third in the series. One thing led to another, I liked the synopsis and ended up reading both Kingshold and Tales of Kingshold back to back.
The verdict? Both these books were very enjoyable.
But before we get into why, what is Kingshold or for that matter – ‘The Wildfire Cycle’ about. So far, it seems to be a centered around the titular city – Kingshold – in the island of Edland, where there is a regime change in progress. The father figure – a wizard named Jyuth – has decreed that that Edland will no longer be a kingdom. and that the ruler will be determined through an election. Multiple hijinks ensue as a result of this decree. The rest of the story is focused on this election and is told from the point of view (POV) of multiple characters.
There are quite a number of characters in the book with 2-3 getting a little more attention than the others. The characters range from a bard who is down on his luck to a band of mercenaries, from the wizard to the bookish chancellor, from a servant girl to the wizard’s daughter and plenty more. I found each and every one of these characters interesting.
Almost every named character gets some sort of a backstory while the more important ones get a decent character arc in this book. Even the side characters have something or the other to make them stick in the mind.
At the end of the day, what matters is whether you care about what happens to the characters in the book. Kingshold gets a definite resounding ‘Yes’ for that.
The World Building
I was getting a lot of Ankh-Morpokh vibes when I was reading Kingshold. The city state with a kingdom, the slums, the assassins guild, the all powerful father figure, the satire and the plot (when it is there), even a street food seller named Dibbler. But while this made like the book, there is enough in the world to set it apart from Ankh-Morpokh. Don’t get me wrong – this is the not the second coming of Terry Pratchett – but his fans will be able to appreciate the similarities more. There is humour (but not to the level of Sir Terry) and this world is a bit more dark and serious.
The other reviews of the book were also comparing this one to other more classic stories and I guess it is a reflection of what they have read, which is fine. I think the comparisons arise because there is just enough borrowed from standard fantasy and more established series.
In my opinion though, the author has managed to carve out his own unique universe which is quite enjoyable in itself.
The world outside of Edland is hinted at and it seems to be quite rich. I am curious to know what it is like and how it will add to the story.
D.P. Woolliscroft’s writing style is best described as easy to digest. I never once felt bored and I was devouring pages like crazy. This is one book where you will never have the feeling that it is an uphill effort to read.This is also due to its above average pacing. None of the story lines palled though I did like some more than the others.
Right from the start, the author intrigues the reader with a subversion of tropes. This trend continues intermittently in the book which brings to me to my one gripe. Basically, I wish the author had made the shifts in tone a little less abrupt. There are places where it is funny/satirical and suddenly, it becomes serious. And then it reverses again.
The Wildfire Cycle has a lot of potential. It has an interesting world and great characters with a sprinkle of humour and intrigue thrown in.
I love Kingshold and Tales of Kingshold. I think you will too,
Please support the author and help keep my site running by buying the books through the affiliate links below.