The first thing that grabbed me about this book was the amazing cover. I know that sounds shallow, but that’s how everyone is. If there’s a beautiful cover, then you know the author cares about this book and it should live up to expectations. I mean, look at it!That said, what should you expect?
This book is an epic fantasy built in a very large world with political turmoil. If you like the format of Game of Thrones and you like elves, you’d probably like this. I see a lot of people compare this author to J.R.R. Tolkien, but I disagree. Tolkien’s works had very few main characters and was more about one character’s struggles. The politics framed the story but the characters ran it. This book is about a political struggle and the characters are just pawns in the play. The biggest impact one character has is the prince who isn’t like his predecessors and is actually a cool dude. Otherwise, the story is much more plot-led than character-led. (The words ‘Kings’ and ‘Pawns’ are taken very literally in this work.)
What I liked:
The world is clearly well thought-out and also absolutely massive. I enjoyed the huge span of this world and the creatures in it. The elves weren’t just basic elves, but have a culture all on their own with different factions, dialects, and cultural beliefs. This world was quite immersive in that sense and that’s definitely what I liked about the book the most.
Audiobook – Narrator was awesome
It’s very difficult to have a narrator who can tell the story well. The voice and personality needs to match with the work, and in this case that was completely true. The narrator did an awesome job and I was very impressed. I’m very picky about narrators and I’d say 80% of the time I stop listening to an audiobook because the narrator just doesn’t fit the work. Big kudos for having the right narrator!
This series has a lot of investment, making it fun to be a part of
The author is very active with this series. I see them having lots of interaction with fans and keeping their website posted with new events. Lots of authors are hardly visible and difficult to reach, so it’s nice to see an author who makes a clear effort. I expect the future books to be out on an appropriate schedule, the cover reveals will be great, and there are various formats readers can enjoy, including audio. Not every series gets this kind of attention and it makes the world more fun to be a part of when the author makes it such a big deal.
What I didn’t like:
Verbose Content/Prose & Infodumps
The first thing I noticed was how wordy the prose is. There’re a lot of verbose no-nos such as an excess of adverbs, character PoV filtering, waste words that could be cut and not change the meaning of the sentence, and directional cues (left/right) that can easily be eliminated and tighten the prose. I listened to the audio version of this book and had to laugh out loud a few times at the narrator trying to wrap his tongue around some of the sentences. He was an amazing narrator so he managed to do it while keeping the character’s intended tone of voice and a smooth sentence, but I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to keep that up for 14 hours. At times, I was more fascinated by how the narrator tackled some sentences rather than what was going on in the story.
The info dumps on the other hand weren’t terrible, for the most part were actually interesting, but they were noticeable. Random facts get thrown at you that are nice to know, but not imperative for the plot. There are also quite a few scenes which I felt held no purpose other than to develop the world-lore. Depending on the reader, some might enjoy it, but for me it just made the pace too slow.
Too many PoVs
Last nitpick. This is a personal quibble. Many books have tons of characters and readers enjoy that. I personally don’t like such a format because it’s hard for me to follow. The story is given by the perspective of the one who tells it, and if the main character constantly changes then it’s just really difficult for me to keep my footing. I’m also terrible with names, so after the PoV jumped a few times I just gave up trying to keep up and waited for an interesting fight scene to break out or cool centaur to appear.
At first I thought this was a traditionally published book and had no reason to believe otherwise, until I got through the first couple of chapters. It’s very rare that this level of wordiness and info-dumping will survive the ruthlessness of a content and development editor. My suspicions were supported when I couldn’t find a web presence for the publisher or editor, suggesting a freelance copywriting editor, and the cover artist is also self-proclaimed freelance.
I don’t know why the author felt the need to not be clear this is an indie-book, because there’s a whole community they aren’t taking advantage of. I love indie-books, and I also have quite different expectations for them. Once I realized this was an indie-book I enjoyed it a lot more because I am much more forgiving when I realize this is a book done all by one person. There aren’t a team of editors and marketing publicists, there’s one author who’s only gotten the help she gets on her own, and that’s just super impressive, especially given the clear massive investment put into this series. So while I don’t understand, I’m glad I figured it out. Because it just makes me respect this author more for getting so far on their own. And if I compare this to other indie-books, this is definitely in the top 1%.
Overall, I’ll end with the comment I enjoyed this book. Given the issues I had with it that says a lot because I’m definitely not one for politics and big worlds. I mean, I love big worlds, but more as a backdrop rather than the main course. Kings or Pawns does a great job and I give it 3.5 stars.
This concludes the book review for Kings or Pawns! I enjoyed the book and hope you do as well.
Note: I was given an audio version of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
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