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Ryan Schuette
Author, Illustrator
An End to Kings

In the highly anticipated conclusion to A Seat for the Rabble, former NPR reporter Ryan Schuette returns to Odma, a richly detailed world not unlike our own. Riven by social injustice, wealth inequality, and powerful magic, the Kingdom of Loran stands on the brink of war . . . and the bastard prince, Jason Warchild, means to save it. With an army of Cloudlanders at his back, Jason marches to the Kingstrials, where he must kill his rivals—including his zealot uncle, Shaddon—to claim his father’s crown and return peasants to power. But winning this deadly game will take more than martial skill and an army. If he fails to win all three Trials, he’ll need the fractious Worthy Assembly to crown him directly—or he’ll lose the kingdom, along with his head. As class anger festers, Jason's allies find themselves embattled. At the capital, Princess Lorana Eddenhold navigates her realm’s troubled politics to stamp out plots against her half-brother, even as she dreads Prieslenne Edenia’s return. In the west, Rathos Robswell risks his life to persuade the Loyal Company’s firebrands to cease their infighting and see the bastard prince—and the dream of a just realm—through a crucible of swords, dragons, and griffons. Only supernatural forces seem to see all ends. Accompanied by a sorcerer, Zuran races against time to confront the real evil . . . the one exploiting chaos in a kingless land.

The second volume of Schuette’s engrossing and resonant epic fantasy maintains the smart balance established of A Seat for the Rabble by again investing classic fantasy elements—a bastard prince, pressing matters of succession, a series of tournament trials, plus monsters, mayhem, and vigorous sense of adventure—with something rare. Schuette is as interested in how power affects the lives of people in a society as he is in the bloody game of acquiring or protecting it. As he faces the challenge of defeating his rivals for the throne (and their beasts) in Kingstrials that have been rigged against him, Jason Warchild’s quest might seem conventional, a heroic trial with roots in ancient myth. But Schuette invests the familiar with urgency, sincerity, and of-the-moment relevance, especially concerning issues of class and trauma, all without imposing contemporary ways of thinking on his heroes, villains, and engaging inbetweeners. Jason’s concern for “the commons” of Loran comes from his humanity.

As he builds to a climax that’s both rousing and bittersweet, Schuette offers a bounty of betrayals, imprisonments, and battles, some coming when readers won’t expect. But the story is powered by character, by a diverse array who are bold but still human, exhibiting welcome bursts of feeling—Jason’s love for the priestess Edenia Highdaughter moves both the heart and the plot—and humor. Responding to a compliment, savvy political operator Princess Lorana says “If only my beheaded mother were alive to hear you say it.”

Schuette projects a septet of novels will follow this one, and the host of perspectives, schemes, cultures, and prophecies “of the chaos to come” suggest that he’s not only laying a foundation but that he has a sure sense of what he’s building. (New readers are advised to start with the first entry.) The good news: for all its sprawl and ambition, this entry maintains urgency and narrative clarity, its pacing as sharp as the claws of the griffons that Jason must master.

Takeaway: Knockout epic fantasy sequel that earns its hefty length.

Comparable Titles: Justin Lee Anderson, James Logan.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A