The king and Queen of Edland are dead, slayed by the powerful wizard, Jyuth. The last thing Jyuth wants is to place another king and Queen on the throne that will run his homeland into the ground.
With no leader to run the country, Jyuth creates an election for a Lord protector to take charge and give the people of kingshold a chance to have their say. But only the wealthy or those in possession of 1000 gold crowns will receive a pixie to cast their votes. As you can imagine, this leads to the powerful candidates, bullying, bribing and sometimes paying for assassinations on the other candidates. There's literally a school dedicated to assassins so paying for an assasintation is about as easy as buying a tankard of ale. Just more expensive, of course.
Usually, books based purely around elections or politics are pretty boring in my opinion. But D. P. Woolliscroft has created one of the most exciting and fast paced books I've read this year. The way the election takes place and gets the whole of kingshold involved, sucks the reader into a tight embrace and refuses to let go. The characters involved in the election is what made me fall in love with this story. We follow four main characters, Mareth, Alana, Neenahwi and Mortega.
Mareth, one of my favourite characters, is a drunken bard that only sees the election in a way to get his name written into the history books and maybe put his chosen candidate into the palace as Lord protector. Of course, it never pans out how you would like and Mareth is thrown into the election in a way he never thought possible.
Alana is an intelligent maid currently wasting her talents serving the old wizard, Jyuth. Alana is the real brains behind bringing the people of kingshold together to finally change the kingdom forever and give the commoners a chance to have their say.
Neenahwi, another of my favourites, is a shape shifting warrior from a distant land, coming back to kingshold after a long hunt for a gem that holds immense power, and also to see her father, the infamous wizard, Juyth. She hates the idea of an election but chooses to meet with each and every individual candidate to seek out their plans for Edland. Also, her father plans to retire and leave her in charge of this mess. So she must use her vote wisely and vote for the candidate most unlikely to make a hash of things. Bringing her into Alana's path and her mission to find a suitable Lord Protector.
Mortega is part of a trio, hired to steal valuable items for wealthy clients. One mission brings Mortega and his two friends back to kingshold after a ten year absence. He has the ability to go inside the mind of his falcon, Per. Giving the trio a huge advantage when facing the enemy. (How cool is that?!).
My only complaint about this book was that it can be a bit predictable at times. There are times when something happens and you think to yourself "I could have called that". But don't let that tiny blimp put you off. There are parts that surprised me and a lot of 'nobody could have seen that coming' moments.
Although the book is based entirely around the election. There are fight scenes that left me with a bit of an adrenaline rush.(I've also got a ton of sleep to catch up on after reading this.)
I don't want to blabber on anymore, for the fear of giving too much away. But I cannot tell you in words how much I loved this book. It's a book I can see myself going back to time and time again (which is rare for me). Also, my partner (who never reads fantasy books) actually wants to read this book. That in itself should convince you how amazing this book really is!
This is a sensational debut from D. P. Woolliscroft and it's stomped its way into my top 5 best reads of 2018.
I want to thank D. P. Wooliscroft for reaching out and provided me with a copy of kingshold. I had a lot of fun reading it and look forward to reading all his future work.
I had such a fantastic time reading this book!
Kingshold is a new self-published fantasy novel that gripped me almost immediately from the opening chapters. I understand that many people find themselves skeptical of self-published novels, but this is one that I promise you can go into and be assured that the quality and content is extremely high.
The story starts off right after the current King and Queen are killed and it is decided that the city of Kingshold will eradicate a monarchical rule and switch over to a mostly democratic society. This makes up the basic background and plot of the story, but of course there are always other small plot-lines running through this book that add depth and intrigue to the story.
The vast majority of this story takes place in the city of Kingshold, which was an element that I really liked. Most fantasy novels tend to have characters stationed in a variety of settings throughout their world, but I was actually really drawn in with the fact that all of the main players were stationed inside one major city. There were still different storylines to follow and small adventures that took place in different places, but I liked the common ground of Kingshold that really brought everything together.
Kingshold follows a decent-sized cast of vibrant characters and switches between six main characters, all of which I really enjoyed reading. The POVs we follow are Mareth, Alana, Neenawhi, Jyuth, Hoskin, and Motega. Mareth, a local bard with a complex past, was easily one of my favorites. He had such a strong, endearing personality that really drew me in and made me want to know more about this humorous yet complicated man. Mareth also has a long, complex past that I would have loved to hear more about--honestly, I'd probably read an entire book about his life before the events that take place in this book.
Jyuth is a centuries old (or so he claims) wizard with a very 'I'm too old for this crap' attitude, which I loved. He's not exactly the most friendly character, but I sincerely loved every scene that had him in it and found him to also be one of my favorite characters. Another character that we follow, Hoskin, has a similar 'I'm too old for this' and is simply counting down the days for when the new democratic government takes over and he can finally retire. Hoskin was another enjoyable figure that definitely surprised me at times, all in good ways.
The rest of our characters include: Alana, servant to Jyuth and an extremely clever girl; Neenawhi, Jyuth's daughter, who is extremely resourceful and seems to always be ready for fighting and adventure; Motega, Neenawhi's brother; Florian and Trypp, friends that work with Motega, and a few others. I would love to go into more detail about all of these characters, but for brevity's sake, I'll just keep it brief and say that they were all exceptionally well-developed and made this story even better. I particularly loved the friendship/team that consisted of Motega, Florian, and Trypp--I have mentally nicknamed them the three musketeers because I love their chemistry and what a great team they make. They're the type that sort of skirt the law and do some questionable things, but at the end of the day they always try to do the right thing.
I also want to add that there are many amazing female characters in this book. A lot of fantasy has a pretty uneven ratio of male and female characters, and when they do have female characters they are not always done well. In Kingshold, however, there were many female characters and they all had really interesting roles and personalities. I was so happy to find this.
Woolliscroft writes in an incredibly accessible and entertaining manner that really made me feel as if I was part of the story. I distinctly remember putting this book down at one point and feeling like I was watching a movie because of how vibrant the characters and story were. This is a more lighthearted fantasy book in the sense that although there are some serious events occurring in the story, there is plenty of witty dialogue between these characters that lightens things up quite a bit. It's not a straight-up comedy, but it definitely has many comedic moments.This is a highly political book--I mean, the main plot is about the transition from a monarchy to a democracy, after all--so if you like your high fantasy political intrigue, this one is it. Another thing I really liked about this book is that it has a very classic fantasy feel complete with wizards, shapeshifting, sword-fighting, dwarves, and magical beasts, all of which Woolliscroft managed to blend together well.
Overall, I've given Kingshold four-and-a-half stars! I really enjoyed this book and can't recommend it enough. I'm not sure if there is a sequel planned because I feel like this story was wrapped up in some places, but also left some stuff open in others. If there is more to this series, then I can't wait to read more!
Kingshold was one of the books that I chose to read completely and review for the first phase of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off. It is, without doubt, an impressive debut and a strong foundation for the rest of the series and in fact was a very close contender for my finalist spot.
The story begins with the murder of the King and Queen by none other than their own wizard, Jyuth. It seems Jyuth had finally had enough of their wicked ways and decided to take drastic action to remove them from further rule of Edland. Jyuth, tired of the scheming nobility decrees that the monarchy be abolished and replaced instead with a democracy. Of course this sounds like it could be ideal, an elected Lord Protector, chosen by the majority vote. The reality is somewhat different. Few people are eligible to stand as candidates and even fewer people can afford to vote – certainly the unwashed masses could not afford to whisper their favoured candidate into a pixie ear. But, there is strength in numbers and with that in mind a small band of unlikely friends come together to promote their own champion and rally the masses. What could possibly go wrong? Well, in a city that has its own guild of assassins I leave you to reach your own conclusion.
The book contains a number of characters and it’s easy to find favourites. Jyuth is an ancient wizard. He seems to be incredibly powerful, a bit curmudgeonly and has a dreadful reputation for not suffering fools. I found myself liking Jyuth immediately but I liked his daughter, Neenahwi, even more. We meet Neenahwi as she is undertaking a dangerous quest involving a demon and a search for a powerful gem. She’s a very easy to like character. Resourceful, calm and intelligent. She’s not very happy with Jyuth, not only for throwing the City into a turmoil with the deaths of the monarchs and the introduction of a new democracy but also because he plans to slope off into retirement leaving her smack bang in the middle of all the mess. Alana is a young woman who takes a position at the palace only to find herself being allocated to serve Jyuth. This actually turns out in her favour. Alana is keen to learn and Jyuth enjoys teaching a lively young mind keen for information. Mareth is a bard. He’s a bit of a drunk and a womaniser to boot but his songs seem to hold power over people and when his talents for charming the crowds are spotted by others he’s enlisted to help one of the candidates. The plan goes somewhat askew as candidates start to be picked off one by one. The other players are Hoskins, who acts as a type of administrator and stand-in Lord Protector at the palace and a trio of mercenaries in search of their next job.
At first, it felt like there were quite a few characters to come to terms with but they pretty soon all slotted into place and eventually they come together as their storylines intersect. Obviously, everyone will have their own favourites but thankfully I didn’t dislike any of the povs and in fact thought the secondary characters were also easy to like.
The story, whilst it revolves primarily around the election and the candidates rush to curry favour and accumulate votes (not to mention desperately trying to stay alive) also takes a couple of side tracks – a diversion involving dwarves and a threat of invasion. The pacing felt a little slow at the beginning whilst I became familiar with everyone but it pretty quickly gathered momentum. I think, to be honest, this could probably be trimmed a little to make it a little more punchy but in fairness, I really didn’t struggle at all and I never experienced the dreaded ‘not wanting to pick the book back up after stopping reading’ which sometimes happens.
In terms of setting the majority of the story takes place in Edland. This is a mediaeval type city that is fairly easy to imagine. I wouldn’t say there’s anything groundbreaking here but it feels easily recognisable and quite well drawn without the need for weighty descriptions. I guess you could say it has a comfortable feel.
I don’t really have any major criticisms. I think this is a very well executed book. The writing is good, the concept pretty unique and the characters come together in a pleasing way. Personally, I didn’t love Mareth as much as I felt I should. In his favour, his character really does make some positive changes but I remain on the fence about him for the time being. The other thing that puzzled me when I read it and in fact still puzzles me now writing this review is the invasion/pirate scene. I don’t want to give away spoilers so my comments are necessarily vague but, firstly, I didn’t see that coming – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but, secondly, I’m not quite sure what it brought to the story and I feel like I’ve missed something important somehow – however, I put that down to myself, clearly I’ve overlooked something fundamental.
All told, this is a great start to a series that I look forward to continuing. I have to say that going into this read I had my doubts. I figured that reading a fantasy story centred around an election process would probably be a little dry. As it turned out this was a fun read with some well placed humour, the election is more a backdrop and a catalyst for change in a story that becomes more about taking up a cause and doing the right thing in order to succeed, well, that and all the scurrying around trying to stay alive.
I received a copy of the book courtesy of the author, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
My rating – 4 of 5 stars
KINGSHOLD is the debut offering from self-published author DP Woolliscroft and the first entry in his Wildfire Cycle. Woolliscroft hails from Derby, England and now resides in Princeton, New Jersey (a hop, skip, and jump from my current city of residence by the way). But I digress.....My attention was drawn to this author when I began following him on Twitter and kept seeing all of the discussion regarding his first book just released this past April. I was even more intrigued when it was recently announced that KINGSHOLD would be one of 300 entries in Mark Lawrence's highly regarded Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off contest for 2018. So when offered a chance to receive a review copy by the author himself, I must say that I was very excited to get a chance to read it and write a review before the contest kicked off in earnest. Upon reading the brief description of the plot, I was even more eager to begin the story as it seemed to be the type of Fantasy book that I usually love immersing myself in. So I started reading this 500 page tome exactly one week ago and finished late last night. If the speed with which I flew through the pages is any indication, I think you can make a pretty accurate guess as to how I felt about this book. And so now a little bit more about KINGSHOLD....
KINGSHOLD is a place embroiled in treachery and upheaval. The King and Queen were just recently discovered murdered under a cloud of mystery. The opening paragraphs describe a court in chaos as the different factions and leaders struggle to understand what just took place and who might be responsible. It is soon revealed that the ancient wizard Jyuth was the one who committed the regicide, but for what reasons is still unclear. The only thing that is clear is that the monarchy has been abruptly abolished in one night and there must now be new elections to select a Lord Protector of KINGSHOLD who will rule the new government. Jyuth, King-maker and ever the opportunist, sees a chance to influence the selection while making a bit of coin for himself in the process due to the fact that the only way someone can put vote their choice is by making a substantial monetary donation. And so the race to become Lord Protector begins with the back-stabbing and double-dealing getting incredibly hot and heavy. Mareth is a bard of middling renown who is suddenly thrust into one of the biggest eras of chaos that KINGSHOLD has ever seen in its long history. Mareth is pretty much a drunk and an underachiever, what you would call a slacker by today's standards. Being a bard, this is his greatest chance to erase all of that and place his selection in the leadership chair should he be able to sing the story that will unite everyone behind his choice. Mareth believes that fame is just around the corner and all of the spoils and drinking money that go along with it. Meanwhile, the reason for the King and Queen's assassination is revealed to be because they were engaged in a vile slave trade which was negatively impacting the reputation and governing of KINGSHOLD and which the wizard Jyuth simply could not abide any longer. As the candidates come forward to vie for the new position of Lord Protector, the political maneuvering begins to get a bit out of control and bribing, killing, and violent rioting become the order of the day. Suddenly the future of KINGSHOLD may not be at all certain and whether or not there can be an orderly transition at all is very much in doubt. There are also those outside the confines of KINGSHOLD who see the civil unrest and instability as a very real chance to finally tear down the once mighty kingdom and finally give power to those unfortunate and poverty-stricken who reside just outside its walls. Will the wizard Jyuth achieve his ultimate goal to raise a Lord Protector to the throne and restore stability to KINGSHOLD or will chaos and anarchy ultimately reign supreme, plunging the kingdom into a much different era where no one is positive of the eventual outcome? Nothing is as it seems and motivations shift with the wind in this complex yet utterly readable medieval Epic Fantasy by DP Woolliscroft.
Every once in a great while a book just comes out of left field and completely floors me. KINGSHOLD is one of those very books. I have to say that the quality of self-published books, especially in the Fantasy genre, has risen to unseen heights recently. Credit established Fantasy author Mark Lawrence for giving voice and visibility to those authors who ten or even five years ago would have never been given a chance of reaching such a large audience. It would have been a real crime had KINGSHOLD never been afforded the opportunity to reach the masses because it is simply a wonderful and engaging Fantasy read. And it surprised the hell out of me with how it grabbed my attention from the first page and then demanded that I keep reading and reading and reading. One of the many wonderful aspects of this book in my opinion is the way the main character is written. I kept going back and forth in my head as to whether or not I believed Jyuth was a hero or a villain. He is portrayed in such a way that you aren't entirely sure whether he has the best interests of KINGSHOLD truly at heart or whether he is simply a selfish lout who is only concerned with furthering his own agenda. The picture does become clearer as you get further into the book, but it was a masterful job of keeping the reader guessing and not creating the usual cookie-cutter characters that most Fantasy books are teeming with these days. I would also classify this as Political Fantasy, in that the majority of the plot deals with the election of the new Lord Protector and the strategic positioning of all of the candidates and their backers. That being said, I was never bored by this and there is quite enough action to satisfy those who crave that as well. Another element that was interesting was the use of modern day slang and profanity set against a very Medieval Fantasy period. The contrast was a unique approach and I thought that it lent a gritty realism to what could have been a very stale "same old Fantasy" story. There are so many things that I loved about KINGSHOLD and I really didn't want it to end. In fact, I may eventually go back and read it again very soon if I have some time because it was that entertaining a story. I really hope that both KINGSHOLD and author DP Woolliscroft advance to the finals in the SPFBO challenge. This is a book that deserves to be recognized as not only one of the best self-published books of the year, but also as one of the best Fantasy books of 2018 period. It could very well win the whole thing when all is said and done. All due accolades to DP Woolliscroft, I eagerly anticipate the next installment in the Wildfire Cycle. Oh, and please write faster!
The plot (at least in the beginning) is pretty simple: the King and Queen are dead by the hands of the ancient wizard Jyuth and although most people are happy with this outcome, the kingdom needs a leader nonetheless. And so Jyuth decides he had enough of kingmaking and lets the good people of Kingshold decide their own fate – if they have the money to vote, that is.
Thus, the race for the Lord Protector title begins: the most promising candidates are Lord Eden and Hoxteth, with General Uthridge, Lady Kingsley and others on the sidelines. Some of them stops at nothing to get what they want, assassination, bribing and inspiring civil unrest are among the tools they use.
There are a handful of people who in the chaos try to make the best of the situation and not only save the city from the hands of incompetent, greedy, weak leaders but from enemies outside of the borders. Neenahwi is not really happy with this turn of events, especially that Jyuth wants to leave her in charge in his place after the election and decides to take matters in her hands. Seeking out the candidates to learn their ways, to see what they can offer to the people and facing her past she doesn’t really want to. Mareth takes the opportunity to be part of history, to commemorate it, so not only his songs but his name would be known for generations to come. He has no idea however, how much this election will change his life. Add to the mix the three troublemaker Motega, Florian and Trypp who just arrived back to the city after 10 years of being away, building a reputation for themselves. All of them are brought together by Alana, a simple servant girl from the Narrows with intelligence and more wit than most of the nobles, with a curiosity and hunger for knowledge, for helping not only her family, but the whole city.
If you think a book about an election is boring, then read Kingshold and see for yourself if you were right. If you get to 40% and don’t wonder how did you read this much already, then probably it’s not your cup of tea. It stands for those too, who don’t like to follow multiple POV’s. Although I have to say they are easy to follow and they are all distinguished from each other so no confusion there. The writing itself is good, we don’t get overwhelmed much with descriptions, the background of the characters are introduced nicely and they are well built. It’s hard to admit, but I can’t even complain about the female characters. Because of the several POV’s it’s a bit hard to build a connection with the characters – and there is not one favored MC, all of them are treated somehow equally – even though everyone will find their favorite. However, the dialogues are needing some improvement. Sometimes they make you roll your eyes, sometimes it’s obvious they are used as info dumpings and I still don’t understand what’s with british people using each others’ names every damn time. Let’s see a made up example (please note that this is not actually in the book):
“Yes, Petra dear?”
“I love your songs, Mareth. Please never stop singing!”
“Thanks, Petra, you are a darling. Jules!”
“Give us an extra round, will you, Jules?”
“Of course Mareth, my pleasure!”
Okay, I might have exaggerated a bit, but you get my meaning. Also, some punches would have been bigger hits if they were handled better. Most of the time early hints are well placed, you totally disregard them and so you are surprised when they get back, but some were not so subtle. No details, otherwise I would spoil things for readers. Suffice to say, the editing needs a bit of work, but again, this is a debut book, and a pretty good one at that.
It’s quite obvious some of the events in this book are inspired by real historical events, especially Edland’s history, the way Edward got to lead: I could sense a nod to the battle of Hastings and to the Arthurian legends as well. Might be my imagination though, because it’s pretty subtle.
Overall, Kingshold is a great debut novel which has potential to be even better as the series will go on. The story has a nice arc, most of the questions are answered, but there are enough left open to keep you interested. Although the ending was quite predictable, a little twist of events made its way into it, which you couldn’t see coming. D. P. Woolliscroft pulls the strings effortlessly, making an otherwise boring election into something exciting like a car race. You never know what will happen next and which candidate will have to take a break a little too early. Or when a monster or other enemy pops up to make the race a little more interesting in general. If you like your book heavy with political intrigues and schemes, a few monsters here and there with some other fantasy creatures (strawberry blowing pyxies!) appearing, spiced with a little magic, then don’t look more, Kingshold is for you!
Kingshold is an entertaining look at a fantasy world’s transition from monarchy to democracy. Jyuth, an ancient wizard, has been quietly pulling the strings behind the scenes for centuries. When the dark secrets of the King and Queen are revealed to him, he decides that he’s pretty much done propping up sociopathic royals and he wants Kingshold to be handed off to a better class of bastard. To this end, he murders the shit out of them, dissolves the monarchy, and calls for an election. Politics being what they are in pretty much any society, the haves are terrified of the have-nots getting a say, and so some rules are set in place that a refundable deposit of 1000 gold must be paid in order to be allowed to vote, preventing all but the elite from having their voices heard. An assortment of rich arseholes put themselves forward for the position of Lord Protector, and that’s when the assassinations begin.
Are you ready? Because we’re just getting started.
This is a cleverly plotted multi-PoV tale, and it’s told with an enormous amount of enthusiasm and wit. The characters are all deeply thought out and utterly charming, to the point where I had to remind myself that this is a debut novel. Neenahwi is a fiery sorceress with a traumatic past, a pragmatic attitude and a boatload of sass. Mareth is a ne’er do well Bard with a desire to be better man. Alana is a serving girl with a good head on her shoulders and she’s absolutely bright as a button. There’s a trio of rogues who I think are all the way up there with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Royce and Hadrian, and Locke and Jean in terms of banter. Jyuth is a Dumbledore-level schemer who loves those close to him dearly but he is done with everyone’s shit. We start off reading each character’s individual thread, and as the story progresses Woolliscroft braids these threads together and everything begins to shine.
Have I mentioned that I had a really good time?
So, it’s not a comedic fantasy exactly, but it did make me laugh really hard more than a couple of times. I’d liken it to Scott Lynch’s style in that respect, but… more British. Woolliscroft and I are both British expats, so that might explain why the hybrid Brit/American tone really worked for me. There are a lot of sly Discworld references and some creative swearing, and the comedic timing is spot on. Woolliscroft’s political commentary is based in reality rather than pure imagination, so parallels can be drawn to today’s political climate and that might either tickle or irritate you depending on your own leanings. If you like your humor on the dry, slightly pessimistic side, you’ll find much to enjoy here.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. There are some awkwardly crafted sentences here and there, the pacing has some issues (probably 50 pages could have been shaved to make it tighter), and there are anachronisms within the dialogue that some readers may find jarring. Even so, this is one of the strongest debuts I have read in some time. I hesitate to dock it a star because frankly, while I acknowledge that Kingshold is in some ways a diamond in the rough, that diamond is the size of a goddamn baseball. I have read more polished books that I enjoyed a lot less. The characters, plot and worldbuilding are absolutely stellar, and I will be ordering a physical copy of both this novel and Tales of Kingshold as a Christmas gift to myself. If you’re looking for something funny, charming, and a little different, I can’t recommend it enough.
It was a wonderful reminder of exactly why I take review requests, and with a debut this special I can’t wait to watch this author’s writing develop.