Book Review: Justice of Kings by Richard Swan

Title: Justice of Kings

Author: Richard Swan

Series: Empire of the Wolf #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: As an Emperor’s Justice, Sir Konrad Vonvalt always has the last word. His duty is to uphold the law of the empire using whatever tools he has at his disposal: whether it’s his blade, the arcane secrets passed down from Justice to Justice, or his wealth of knowledge of the laws of the empire. But usually his reputation as one of the most revered—and hated—Justices is enough to get most any job done. When Vonvalt investigates the murder of a noblewoman, he finds his authority being challenged like never before. As the simple case becomes more complex and convoluted, he begins to pull at the threads that unravel a conspiracy that could see an end to all Justices, and a beginning to lawless chaos across the empire. -Goodreads

The Review:

I knew nothing about this book before diving in, save that it had an unconventional narrative. And really, that’s all I needed to know. I generally love it when authors get creative and break a few rules. In this case, the person who would be considered the main character (as his story is the most compelling), is not the perspective the story is written from. Instead we see him through the eyes of his assistant as she retroactively documents their journey together. It was a risky strategy, as we’re missing the parts where we get to see WHY the character makes certain decisions, but it also makes for some surprising moments, so it’s a good trade-off.

That said, I didn’t really care for some of the behaviors of the main character. She read very immature to the point where I was wondering why her companions put up with her. I couldn’t tell if she was written that way on purpose to evoke those emotions or if my personal biases made me more sensitive to it. Overall it didn’t lessen the experience, as I’d much prefer an unlikable character to a boring one, but I can see her bothering some readers.

The story didn’t have as much magic or fantasy components as I thought it would. It was more a legal mystery set in a fairly typical fantasy world. Kind of in the same vein as Locke Lamora. I didn’t mind the lack of magic while reading, but after finishing the book wished the mystery component had been a bit stronger, as that was the main highlight of the book. I enjoyed the legal component and the overall theme and moral debate of following the letter of the law vs. the spirit. It was good food for thought.

I’ve never read anything quite like this and find myself interested to see where it goes next. I can see why a lot of people are loving this one.

Recommendations: pick this up for a low-magic fantasy with legal and mystery components. The unconventional perspective approach is unique and interesting enough to make it stand out a bit from the crowd.

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by Niki Hawkes

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