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Friday, July 12, 2019

The God King's Legacy by Richard Nell (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski and Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order The God King's Legacy over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kings Of Paradise
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kings Of Ash
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Richard Nell

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Richard Nell concerned family and friends by quitting his real job in 2014 to 'write full-time'. He is a Canadian author of fantasy, living in one of the flattest, coldest places on earth with his begrudging wife, who makes sure he eats.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: God-king Marsun, the 'Demon King', has ruled for centuries. But nothing lasts forever. Once just an illiterate tribal chief, Marsun trapped an ancient evil within his mighty soul, united scattered tribes, then retreated from the world. But his sacrifice is all but forgotten. Technology marches on; new ambitious powers rise; unhappy lords plot rebellion; and from every corner of civilization, savage enemies gather. The God King's legacy has just begun...

From the author of Kings of Paradise comes two tales in a world of knights and demons, muskets and cannon fire. Flintlock fantasy mixed with the grit of Game of Thrones.

1) Rebellion of the Black Militia - Johann Planck, bastard and scribe of the god-king's tower, is yanked from his peaceful life of academia, and ordered to capture an immortal creature of darkness. If the knight he's accompanying doesn't kill him, or the demon 'Sazeal', fresh rebellion just might.

2) Devil of the 22nd - A crumbling empire. An abandoned army. Kurt Val Clause is an ordinary soldier trying to keep it all together because no one else has the balls. Now he has one chance to win a glorious future, die in agony, or lose his soul. He just might do all three.

FORMAT/INFO: The God King Legacy is 294 pages long divided over two novellas and further divided into nine and ten chapters. This is the prequel omnibus volume to the God King Chronicles.

The book was self-published by the author on June 10th, 2019 and it's available as an e-book and paperback. Cover art and design is provided by Shawn T. King.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (MIHIR): This is the first prequel novella in the God-King Chronicles by Richard Nell, the author who has written the magnificently twisted Kings Of Paradise. Not to lie down with just that acclaim, this Canadian bugger went ahead and created another story which in my estimates is more complex and cooler than the Ash & Sand one.

The first novella "Rebellion Of The Black Militia" focuses on Johann Planck, an apprentice-scribe who's devoted his young life to the study of demons, their lore and the history of their kingdom. Introverted, pious and judgmental to a fault, Johann is doing his best to prove himself to his Scribery masters. He gets tasked with going to the Humberland province wherein a demon is loose and needs to be re-tethered. Helping him along with task is the deadly warrior named Lamorak the stone knight and a dour persona at that.

Pretty soon the readers and Johann learn that the demon isn't the only problem plaguing the lord and lady of Humberland. There's also perhaps a rebellion brewing or is there something more? All of these events and more force Johann to reconsider what his role is and perhaps what he wants in his life.

Richard Nell does a lot in this novella, not only do we get a whole new world, we also get a flintlock fantasy that's mashed with demons in an epic way. As has been the case with his debut book, characterization is Richard's forte and he excels herein as well. Readers won't like Johann when they meet him but there's more to him as we realize, the same is case with Lamorak and many other characters that we meet. This tale is Richard's take on the knight & his apprentice trope but done from the POV of the apprentice who looks down on the knight and everything else. The effect is darkly humourous and possibly intentional. The story is spread out over nine chapters and we get to see quite a lot of things, there's action, sex, plot twists and a satisfying ending that really made this novella a standout one.

The second novella is “Devil of the 22nd” and focusses on Kurt Val Clause, a veteran sergeant of the red division of the Keevland Empire’s eastern army, and one mean, smart son of a bitch. The empire as well as the military higher ups have all but forgotten about the First division. Kurt and his fellow soldiers have become a renegade unit of sorts, doing their own thing while under the apparent aegis of the emperor. Things take a weird turn when the regiment gets orders for a rescue and recovery of a Ms. Clara Lehmann. Kurt however decides to take those orders and spin them to his own flavor. Things are soon afoot in the Helveti lands where new things will be discovered and legends will be made.

The second novella is a bit longer and more twisted than the first. Kurt Van Clause isn’t a likeable narrator but he is a charismatic sociopath. He twists opinions, perceptions & rumours to his purpose & he has had two decades worth of time to perfect his devilish charm. This story unlike the first doesn’t have any heroes in it. It has soldiers, killers and a demon. But what it also has is a very strong narrative that keeps you hooked with its twists as well as its pace.

Richard Nell certainly has a way with his plots, we can’t really be sure where the story is heading. Plus Kurt and the other soldiers introduced within are certainly a cast worth following. Neither heroes but not outright villains either, the author really makes them human enough to be mildly sympathetic.

Overall this novella is distinctly different than the first one and is more about the mental justifications characters utilize to do things that are morally reprehensible. The story also focuses on a demon similar to the first but the character's interactions are completely different. The ending though is really unpredictable and sets up an interesting twist for the main series.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (LUKASZ): As a huge fan of Nell’s Ash and Sand trilogy, I had to check this novella. And I liked it a lot. Once again Nell impressed me with character-development, brisk pacing and engaging plot.

Our POV character Johann is an apprentice scribe, a decent, well-educated lad, but more of a thinker than a doer. When a famous knight yanks him from his quiet, peaceful life of academia, and tells him to capture a powerful demon, Johann’s far from thrilled. Especially when the Knight he used to admire behaves like a brute who smokes all the time and enjoys spitting his phlegm in sacred places.

The mission turns from dangerous to insanely dangerous when the pair discovers that a rebellion is brewing in the King’s Lands. Johann gets promoted to a sergeant, gets a musket. He needs to stop the rebellion, survive, and capture a demon. Easy.

The characters and their development are excellent (for a novella format), and Johann and Lamorak’s interactions regularly switch between hilarious (Johann’s naïve outrage at his companion’s uncouth behaviour) and unsettling (Lamorak kills his enemies without remorse and has no scruples to slay underage traitors). Their conflicting morals bring nice tension to the story.

Despite short-length, the world-building feels rich and ingenious. I loved the concept of binding a demon to use his powers and the flintlock elements. Action and battle-scenes thrilled me, and I loved the ending. An excellent novella and a good introduction to Nell’s writing. Highly recommended.

I’ve officially read everything Richard Nell had published. Now I need to hack his computer and read things he hasn’t published yet.

Kurt ‘the Devil’ Val Clause has served the empire of Keevland since he was twelve. Somehow he survived twenty years of war, most of it at the front, and now he schemes for power, plunder and glory. He’s cruel, cynical and rotten to the core. But in Nell’s world fouler things than he exist, and Kurt will have to face a challenge unlike any other.

As a huge fan of a novella format, I think Rich Nell does things right. His pacing, characters, plotting and twists are top-notch. Devil of the 22nd presents a cruel world in which power-hungry sociopaths shape reality. Don’t expect to find any redeeming qualities in Kurt and his people. They‘re murderers and scums.

Most of them would happily continue a pointless life of abuse, but Kurt has a vision, and he wants to secure a place for them to live and prosper. I didn‘t like Kurt. But I liked his story and an excellent twist near the end of the novella. He craved power, and he got it, just not the one he expected or desired :)

Once Nell wraps up Ash and Sand series, I would love him to revisit God-King chronicles universe. I need more demons in my life.

CONCLUSION (MIHIR): Richard Nell has created a very intriguing world and a magic system premise that's very sparsely mentioned here but is very, very imaginative. Think the demon lore of Peter V. Brett's the Warded Man saga mixed with Django Wexler's flintlock fantasy and you'll get an idea of where this series might be heading. As for me, I can’t wait for the author to write the first full length book in The God King Chronicles as I wanted more of this fascinating world.



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