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King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry

King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry
4
Book Name: The King of Plagues
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Publisher(s): Gollancz
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book / eBook
Genre(s): Horror
Release Date: March 29, 2011

The end is nigh!

At least for my Joe Ledger reviews. And in all honesty, I didn’t know how much higher up the series could get after The Dragon Factory. After I had finished that book, I immediately rushed out to buy the third and final book (read: I bought the thing on my Kindle) in the series; The King of Plagues.

The King of Plagues has one of the most impactful openings of the Joe Ledger novels: the oldest hospital in London exploding, with all of the doctors, nurses, and patients going with it. Thousands of people dead in an instant and this is only the start of what promises to be a true torrent of blood. The group behind this atrocity claims to be working under the auspice of The Goddess, and it is clear that they intend to rain down the modern interpretations of the Ten Plagues of Egypt on the people of the world. And so, it is up to Joe Ledger and the brave men and woman of the DMS to bring down this group, especially the aforementioned King of Plagues, who is responsible for these acts.

Much like the first novel in the series, the villain is clearly defined and well-known to the DMS. There are references to past battles with the organization, and this, apparently, is the group that Joe mentioned they were battling in the two months between Patient Zero and The Dragon Factory. And while I do appreciate the fanatical nature of the group, and how they use social networking sites to spread messages and misinformation, this band of miscreants and anarchists seems…a bit too much like a group of James Bond villains. Foot soldiers wear uniforms and the leaders sit in a castle. Yes. A castle. While it is a nice change from the jungle fortresses and underground labs of the first two, it just feels sort of out of place from the high-tech and genetic madness we’ve seen before.

Sebastian Gault and Toys make a return appearance, for those of you who were wondering what they’ve been up to. It seems that they took the last novel off to convalesce from almost being devoured by Middle Eastern zombies and coming very close to wiping out all life as we know it. At first, I was a bit giddy to see them return, and once they get involved in the plot, the title becomes even more apparent.

The Dragon Factory did everything that a sequel is meant to do, and a little bit more besides. If there is one thing to be said about the novel, it’s that it made me care for Joe more and become more emotionally attached to him. This is what helped make the ending so damn impactful. The epilogue for that novel left it wide open for a third book, which I bought with the intent of watching as Joe Ledger made someone who had hurt him pay dearly for such a transgression. And he does make him pay, though the way the payoff is delivered to us left a bit of a foul taste in my mouth, but for reasons I will not divulge here.

The King of Plagues fulfilled all my expectations and was as exciting as I wanted to be. I loved every fight, every bit of dialogue, and the interaction we see between Joe and his compatriots. And yet, I left this book feeling like there was something lacking. What I think left me feeling a bit off was how the stakes are, for lack of a better word, lowered. The last two books effectively presented us with horrors that could and do threaten all life in the world. In this novel, the villains seem more focused on bringing down a rival faction. Yes, the climactic ending of our time with Joe Ledger, is a faction war. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the conflict, but after we dealt with zombies, racial-specific plagues, and mutants, using the Ten Plagues of Egypt to bring down a rival faction just seems a bit…childish. Like the DMS is breaking up a turf war.

My final breakdown of this novel is that it was a treat to step into Joe’s shoes once again and take down the terrorists, but while there were enough twists, turns, laughs, and shots to keep me entertained, it did not reach the same emotional level as The Dragon Factory, which is by far the best book in the series. I highly recommend it to Joe Ledger fans, just to provide some closure for our favorite DMS officer.

If there ever is another Joe Ledger novel, it will be my pleasure to read and review that one as well. But for now, stay tuned as I intend to kick off a very special three part review of an omnibus that I got for Christmas: The Icewind Dale Trilogy.

Results

Heroes: Joe is back in all his glory, though he does come into this battle with some well-worn scars. – 5/5

Villains: The interaction and backstabbing between the villains is signature Joe Ledger material, but there’s something a bit too James Bondy about these characters. – 3/5

Narrative: The previous score still stands. – 5/5

Plot: While the whole story starts on a high note, some of the middle and the ending left me longing. – 3/5

Science: Not really present here. Sure, we have plagues, but nothing of the scale we saw before. – N/A

World: Nothing truly noteworthy this time about the world. Despite the group being the Seven Kings, I can’t take the castle seriously. – 2.5/5

Overall: 4/5

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Rating: 10.0/10 (5 votes cast)
King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry, 10.0 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the upbeat review. One thing, though… This is far from the last book in the series. Not sure where that idea came from. Joe Ledger #4: ASSASSIN’S CODE witll be out in March; and I’m researching Joe Ledger #5: EXTINCTION MACHINE. More to come. There are also several Joe Ledger short stories (some online, some in print, more coming).

    There’s also JOE LEDGER: THE MISSING FILES, a collection of short stories on audio that includes “Dog Days”, an exclusive that answers the question of what happened to Conrad Veder.

    As for the high level stakes…well, I think you’d agree that saving the whole world every time would become a one note. Sometimes even the most elite SpecOps team has to take time to save a worthy few.

    Again, thanks for the review and I’m delighted you enjoyed the series!

  2. ChrisMB87 says:

    Addendum: I just heard from our Overlord that there will indeed be more Joe Ledger in the future… STAY TUNED, KIDDIES!!

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