Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell
|Book Name:||Tyrant’s Throne|
|Author:||Sebastien de Castell|
|Publisher(s):||Jo Fletcher Books|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Ebook|
|Release Date:||June 6, 2017 (US) April 20, 2017 (UK)|
Sebastien de Castell’s four-book Greatcoats series feels like a direct rebuttal to the term “grimdark,” and I mean that in the best way possible.
That’s not to say that I dislike grimdark novels (I don’t), or to say that terrible things don’t happen in de Castell’s novels (they do). But at the end of the day, where grimdark novels often are built around a certain cynicism in their worldview, part of what makes the Greatcoat books so great is the endless optimism of our primary protagonist, Falcio Val Mond.
Through the first three books in the series, Falcio, Kest, and Brasti have battled treacherous nobles, raging gods, and their own demons to put Tristia on the path to a monarchy guided by justice and compassion. Trading jokes and barbs the entire way, the Greatcoats have found their dead king’s daughter, and soon will place her on the throne so she can usher in a new era in the history of their country – one built around the rule of law.
But in Tyrant’s Throne, the fourth and final book of the quartet, new challengers to the throne emerge. A neighboring nation of barbarians has been united under a single warlord, and their impending invasion represents almost certain doom for a nation still recovering from the events of the third novel. Just as dangerously, the Greatcoats’ nemesis, Trin, brings forth a claimant to the throne who will test Falcio’s faith and sense of justice as never before.
It’s a fast-paced novel, intersecting action and adventure with political maneuvering as Greatcoats and nobles vie for the right to see their champion placed on the throne of Tristia. As always, Falcio and his friends are clever and quick-witted, but almost always a step behind their enemies and the problems they struggle to solve. I love the way that de Castell illustrates the incredible challenges of governing a country through the Greatcoats’ interactions with common folk. There is one scene early in the novel where Falcio, Kest, and Brasti come across a village that has been decimated by the country’s recent battles, and the women and children struggle to carve out a living.
On another occasion, as the Greatcoats attempt to sneak inside Avares, learn more about the warlord organizing their war bands, and kidnap Trin, they meet people who are far more sympathetic to Avares than to Tristia. Despite Fastio’s great and sincere intentions, and despite the blood he has shed in service of those beliefs, he finds himself face to face with reasonable people who simply don’t care who’s sitting on the throne – they just want a government that’s stable enough to allow them to put food on their plates. When your belly is empty, everything else is just details.
Of course, even as de Castell tackles weighty themes of governance and justice, he still has plenty of time for jokes – including jokes about how little respect Falcio receives from those around him:
Since my twentieth birthday, I’ve fought seventy-six judicial duels (not that I’m counting, Kest does that). I’ve been on the “vastly outnumbered” side of more than a dozen different battles, thwarted numerous assassinations and faced an uncountable number of other attempts on my life. The fact that I’m here and the majority of my opponents aren’t should say something about my capacity for both survival and violence. And yet I swear there isn’t a single person in this damnable country who’s afraid of me.
The Greatcoats series is one that gets progressively better as it goes along, and Tyrant’s Throne certainly rivals Saint’s Blood as the best in the collection. By this point in the series, de Castell clearly has a firm grip on his characters and each book has a handful of important and distinct themes to explore. Just as importantly, de Castell answers many of the questions that have hung over the entire series, none more important than where the missing Greatcoats have been for the length of the series.
In the end, de Castell wraps things up with incredible grace and thoughtfulness. There’s a poignancy and humor and forgiveness, combined in such a way that it’s almost impossible not to be disappointed this series has come to an end. On Goodreads, de Castell has hinted that he could return with more books about Falcio, Kest, and Brasti at some point in the future, but has no plans to do so any time soon. For those of us who just wrapped up the final pages of Tyrant’s Throne, that’s disappointing news. But it’s hard to imagine many fans of this series being disappointed by the way de Castell has wrapped everything up.
Even in the end, the Greatcoats’ streak of optimism keeps shining through.