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The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
4.5
Book Name: The Ruin of Kings
Author: Jenn Lyons
Publisher(s): Tor Books
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: February 5, 2019 (US) February 7, 2019 (UK)

Stories are told as entertainment, and we all become familiar with certain tropes: the lost heir, the fulfillment of the prophecy, the quest for a mythical sword, etc. Nowadays, some of these stories twist readers’ expectations of these tropes to the point where one cannot predict what will happen next. Then, there are the stories which keep the tropes, but include scenarios of reality, which makes for a different, yet entertaining experience. Jenn Lyons does this and more in her debut novel, The Ruin of Kings, the first book in A Chorus of Dragons series.

The protagonist in this book is Kihrin. He is the son of a minstrel and was raised in a brothel. He is fifteen years old and enjoys thievery and fighting as much as he enjoys playing his harp. One day, while going about his business in the streets of Quur, a demon appears and chases Kihrin to the point where the City Watch has to rescue him and kill the demon. While he is in custody, Kihrin learns he is the lost heir of House D’Mon, one of the twelve Royal Houses of the Quur Empire. Within a short time, Kihrin is claimed against his will into a life he doesn’t want, by a noble family whose made a career out of abusing their power and their influence. To make matters worse, Kihrin is later abducted and sold into slavery, where a troupe of assassins known as the Black Brotherhood buys him and trains Kihrin in magic and in swordplay. During his captivity, Kihrin learns about his family, the history of the Quur Empire, and his connection and role within all of it.

Over the years, Kihrin meets a lot of interesting people. Some of them are able to assist Kihrin with learning his identity and coming to terms with it. First, there is Ola, a former slave turned tavern owner who raised Kihrin alongside his adopted father. Second, is Darzin—the man who says he is Kihrin’s father—the heir of House D’Mon, who abuses his position and his family, and is obsessed with prophecies about the end-of-the-world. Third, is Galen, Kihrin’s younger brother, who is happy to have Kihrin around—meaning their father stops abusing him—and the two brothers become close much to their father’s chagrin. Fourth, is Teraeth, an assassin and a member of the Black Brotherhood whose family lineage is as impressive as Kihrin’s. Last, is Talon, a woman of many talents and secrets who works for Darzin D’Mon and knows A LOT about Kihrin from his criminal past to his abduction. All of these characters (and several more) help Kihrin as he grows into the adult he needs to be, as all the signs and the prophecies point to an upcoming, ominous event.

The one thing that makes this story standout is the narration. There are two parts in this novel: Part I is told in the past tense, and Part II is told in the present tense. In Part I, there are two narrators: Kihrin and Talon. The two of them decide to tell the other of the events leading up to their current predicament. However, while Kihrin begins his story from his abduction, Talon tells Kihrin’s story from his days as a minstrel’s son to his life within the D’Mon household to his kidnapping. As both Kihrin and the readers are hearing Talon’s version of events, he can’t help but wonder how she knows things he didn’t know about himself; who else knows these things about him, and what else does she know? This method of narration presents a full account of everything leading up to Part II of the book, which doesn’t leave room for any answers to these questions because they’ve been retorted, and readers can focus on what’s going to happen next.

The style Lyons used for the majority of The Ruin of Kings is one of the many things I enjoyed about this book. The two narrators—Kihrin and Talon—are not only reiterating their (Kihrin’s) stories to each other, but also are “recording” the events using magic so their oral story can be written down by a chronicler who can tie all of the events together as one whole story. In addition, the inclusion of maps, footnotes, glossary, addendums, and family trees are an excellent help with the worldbuilding and keeping track of all of the characters.

The story delves into the delusion stories and prophecies can have on anyone—real or fictional. Stories are what they are, and they don’t always include either the harsh realities or the potential dark side of reality reflecting stories instead of the other way around. Not to mention, it is never a good idea to force or to eschew any and all prophecies. This is because prophecies do not always promise a positive outcome and, no matter what you do, they have a way of being fulfilled. Regardless, people must be able to demonstrate resilience and to endure such discord, especially if they hope to survive.

If you are a fantasy reader who enjoys stories containing twisted tropes and equally twisted characters as well as stories where the worldbuilding makes up a large part of the story, then look no further than this book. The Ruin of Kings is the first in a five-book series. The cliffhanger at the end will encourage readers to pick up the second book, The Name of All Things.

The Ruin of Kings is an intriguing start of a new epic fantasy series. Lyons delivers a story containing magic, prophecies, dragons, and elements of worldbuilding where she twists both the tropes and the expectations of her readers in a brilliant way. The buzzworthy attention this book continues to have within the fantasy community should be enough of a reason to pick up this book and read it.

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