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Kings of Paradise

(Ash and Sand #1)

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,703 ratings  ·  274 reviews
A deformed genius plots vengeance while struggling to survive. A wastrel prince comes of age, finding a power he never imagined. Two worlds are destined to collide.

Only one can be king.

Ruka, called a demon at birth, is a genius. Born malformed and ugly into the snow-covered wasteland of the Ascom, he was spared from death by his mother's love. Now he is an outcast, consu
Kindle Edition, 608 pages
Published August 8th 2017 by Richard Nell
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Richard Nell Yes I've started the process of looking for a narrator now. I probably shouldn't give a timeline, but my hope is before the end of the year.…moreYes I've started the process of looking for a narrator now. I probably shouldn't give a timeline, but my hope is before the end of the year.(less)

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Average rating 4.23  · 
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 ·  1,703 ratings  ·  274 reviews

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Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Grimdark & aSoIaF fans
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

I finally got around to review Richard Nell’s highly acclaimed indie debut, Kings of Paradise. My verdict: an impressive grimdark debut.

I was first offered to review Kings of Paradise by Nell himself back in November 2017. Back then, Kings of Paradise had around 20 ratings and I simply didn’t have time to read it because I was swamped by ARCs, review copies, and Oathbringer’s release, which was also in November; I told Nell that
4.5 -> 5*

Oh man... where do I even begin?!

Okay... let me just start by stating the obvious: this is a fantastic debut novel. If you don't know this is indie - you will never be able to tell.

It is also a crazy mix of plotlines and themes. Some places are deeply poignant and lyrical others are pure badassery. In fact, there is so much going on and plot twists so sharply all the time that, like me, you may be feeling that you are reading an anthology. Except all parts are joined up by the braided
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to SPFBO, indie books got on my radar and even though I haven’t read many of them, it was a positive experience so far. Based on that experience and some positive blog buzz, I decided to add Kings of Paradise on my ever-growing to read pile. And you know how it goes, you add a book and then it just sits there waiting and collecting virtual dust while you read other books and lie to yourself you’ll start it as soon as you finish your current read. Well, I stopped lying to myself.

Hear ye,
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Sep 07, 2020 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ by: Mayim de Vries
So my darling friend, Mayim said she opened the book and this was the first line.

"Ruka stared at the corpse of the boy he's killed, and his stomach growled."

I basically told her holy shit, this is on kindle unlimited, ima read it. She said I’d like it. So I bought the damn thing 😉
Nick Borrelli
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
KINGS OF PARADISE is equally divided between two separate lands with two separate storyline POVs. Ruka was born with a deformity which resulted in him being seen as a demon by the local priestesses of the frigid wasteland of Ascom. A barbarian living along the outskirts of the city, the only reason why he hasn't been killed already by the superstitious and very influential matriarchy is because his mother Beyla is a child of the gods who still carries with her an impressive reputation of her own ...more
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
First, I would like to thank Richard Nell for reaching out to me, and offering a free digital copy of Kings of Paradise for an honest review.

Well, where do I begin? The world building, the characters, the unique feel to the story. It doesn't matter really. It is all top notch and very well done. So well done in fact that I am adding book 2 to my most highly anticipated releases of 2018. I know we only have 4 months left in the year, but what the hell. I will be reading it as soon as it is releas
Mayim de Vries
A malformed hero that would make Joe Abercrombie proud.
A prince who would prompt Mark Lawrence to weep with envy.
A leading female that not even N.K. Jemisin could have written better.

And a story so intimate, you will hold it in your heart forever and so vast that it can shatter the world.

Full review to come!


So, I opened the book late at night, because I like to get a teaser of something new before I go to sleep. But this book starts in the following way: "Ruka stared at the corpse of the
Rebekah Teller
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Vast in scope and intimate in its telling, Kings of Paradise is an impressive novel from a brilliant mind.

The story unfolds naturally and starts with humble beginnings. Ruka, an only child raised by a single mother, and Kale, fourth son of an island king, and not very skilled at anything.

In the land of Ash, Ruka is an exile who longs to expose the corruption of the religious order and claim some personal justice for crimes against his mother. These are tribal people whose governing system is cen
Richard Nell
Aug 16, 2017 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
*Updated to include audiobook links!*

I thought I'd make myself useful and mention a few things:

1. This book is always on Kindle Unlimited.

2. Now available as an audiobook! US link UK link

3. If you'd like to check out something smaller I've written, you can get a 100ish page flintlock fantasy novella for free by subscribing to my mailing list: free books are awesome!

4.If you'd like to know the meaning of life, please just message me. Have your credit card ready.

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Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
* I was sent this book from the author in exchange for an honest review *

I must admit, I picked this up largely because of Esme's recommendation as she just made it sound so good. I love epic fantasy stories, particularly those which have a lot of characters I like to follow, and this story is quite a mixture of old favourites and new ideas.

I audiobook-ed this one, and I recommend the audio as I think it was done well and I personally enjoy the characters being brought to life as it helps disti
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I honestly didn't know what to expect when I started this. An epic fantasy using a low magic system, lots of grit and grim, and a fairly expansive world? Sure. That sounds reasonable. And pretty standard.

Pretty soon after we get through a pretty general opening with a downtrodden prince and a few other rather more interesting low characters, I think it started getting pretty good. I wasn't all that impressed with the start. But later on? It definitely drew me in and kept me engaged.

Runes? Count
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, novel
I recently learned that Richard Nell will be submitting Kings of Paradise, the first book in the Ash and Sand trilogy, into next year’s SPFBO (Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off) competition. In my mind, there’s no question of whether it will be a finalist or not. In fact, I will be shocked if it doesn’t outright win the whole contest.

This book is that good.

Clocking in at over 200,000 words, Kings of Paradise is a methodically paced and richly detailed story that primarily focuses on two teenage bo
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Making me read a large, weighty book that counts more than six hundred pages is almost impossible. Even bribery doesn't work. And yet I reached for Kings of Paradise and couldn't put it down.

It's brilliant. It's, undoubtedly, one of the best books I read this year*. The hype is real and high scores are well deserved.

Kings of Paradise is a dark and gritty coming-of-age story that follows multiple characters. Some of them are secondary and their chapters, while making the narrative more colourful
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I received a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Richard Nell, for the opportunity.

This is a fantastic debut novel, and by the end, I felt like I'd just stepped off a roller coaster. The story unfolds organically, and is essentially a coming of age tale, connecting several characters. But despite their young ages, be warned, this is a very dark novel. After all, it opens with a boy who has just killed another boy, and he is now eating him.

It's dark, but not ble
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing

This book has a rather complicated plot, with each of the characters sort of doing their own thing at the beginning.

Ruka is the first character you meet, and you see him as an adult who’s murdered a young child and he’s frying up his limbs on a skillet. After that, you flash back to when he was a kid and watch him grow up into the person he became. Ruka is “Noss Born”, which means he’s been touched by the Mountain God aka The God of Death, Chaos, and Suffering. He starts off as a nice enoug
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Ruka is such a great MC!
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
This started off really good dark and interesting characters, but I lost interest about halfway, which is what I kinda always do when the book is very character driven.
I really liked the characters flawed as they were, but as always I just need something more, cuz really there is basically no plot here. I would've loved at least some sarcastic cynical character, those always do it for me, but alas there was none.
I don't think I'll continue with this series 😞
Katherine Coble

Several people have read my review of Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song and have asked me to let them know when another craic read comes along.


Books like this are a privilege. Books like this remind you of why you are a person who reads for fun.

I started to write a deep analysis of what the book is about and why I love it. But that’s not what I want to do with this review because I don’t want to be the adult who takes apart the toaster r
Adam Wheeler
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Just delving into the world of self-publushed indie author's an I think I picked an amazing place to start. Nell has crafted a sweeping world by telling a coming-of-age tale for 3 different point of view characters, all with good intentions, to improve and shape what they see as a cruel world. As the characters themselves make cruel decisions that they see as necessary to gain enough powered to make the world a better place as they see it, they inevitably come into conflict with one another. I a ...more
Nils | nilsreviewsit
‘A demon from Noss’ mountain rose up behind a standing stone. His voice boomed as rolling thunder, words enunciated, measured and clear, like a bard at his craft. He wore a black cloak with a hood drawn to his eyes, face shrouded in gloom...’

Kings of Paradise is a self published novel by Richard Nell. After reading several raving reviews, especially a great one by Petrik, on Goodreads, I was over the moon when the author contacted me and kindly offered to send me a paperback copy for review all
Cold Medina
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'd be all over this if I were a publisher. This is better than the vast majority of fantasy books.

First off, I don't understand why some people summarize the plot in their reviews, especially when you can scroll up and read the synopsis, so instead I'll just say it's definitely intended for fans of grimdark, with a couple scenes that made the rest of the genre look well-mannered by comparison.

Kings of Paradise does have an unconventional story structure, so be warned. In a way, it kind of remin
C.T. Phipps
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, grimdark

KINGS OF PARADISE by Richard Nell is one of the favorites to win the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (#SPFBO). It is a story which has been recommended to me over and over again. I was surprised by this because the fantasy fans I hang around with are a very cynical bunch. If one liked THE POPPY WARS, then the next disliked it. I was a huge fan of 1000 SCARS but others were iffy about it. Here? Just about everyone who read this novel had nothing but praise
Updated Review:

Whenever I fall head over heels in love with a book I always have an abnormally hard time writing reviews for them. It’s like my brain stutters and refuses to articulate all of the emotions swirling around in my head, and Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell was that kind of story for me. So hopefully I won’t totally butcher this review and Kings of Paradise will get the praise it so rightly deserves.

Pros, Cons and Everything Else

Kings of Paradise centers around 3 main charact
Sadir Samir
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Kings of Paradise is a great fantasy book, with an original setting that I really liked. I felt invested in each of the major POV characters, but I gotta say Ruka was my clear favorite. My only big critique against Kings of Paradise would be the POV shifts, which lead to some pacing issues. With this said, I will definitely read the next book when it comes out.

I really don't enjoy writing reviews but I know how important they are to support authors. Hence my very short reviews.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-scifi
Any book that can make me feel sympathy for a cannibalistic child-killer is obviously doing something profound. Richard Nell’s first book in his Ash and Sand series is nothing if not ambitious. Which I love. I love when writers try to actually say something with their work, when they try to find deeper truths. Exploring the inner workings of a broken sociopath while also delving into big questions like, “Why is the world unjust?” and “How are we called to respond to that injustice?” is a feat un ...more
Twerking To Beethoven
Sadly, I guess I'll have to put this book down for a while and pick it up again in the future, it happened before (John Gwynne's Malice comes to mind). "Kings of Paradise" is far from being bad, and Richard Nell's writing skills are top-notch. it's just I keep getting distracted and can't follow the story in a proper way. So it's DNF-pile material atm as I know I'd rate this book lower than it actually deserves. It saddens me given this is an indie author but, again, I'll give it another try in ...more
Jennifer (bunnyreads)
This was a stellar read that hit all my buttons!

It really did live up to the stars and good reviews. If the author does submit this to spfbo (if there is one this year) I too am pegging it as a finalist.

So, while this definitely gets dark- and I mean good grief man, it opens with a character chowing down on a kid, that’s petty dark stuff- it wasn’t bleak and it didn’t feel like it was trying to prove it could be nasty just for the sake of being nasty.

In fact, it was a totally compelling read (
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A great grim dark story, a world ruled by the powerful; what happens when few powerful individuals decide to destroy the existing structure?
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a really good book and you should read it.
By the end, I was eager for the sequel. The characters are engaging and intense, and the setting an intriguing low-magic world packed with interesting cultures to be further delved.

Richard Nell manages two stories in one -- a talented young man struggling and succumbing to evil in a brutal world he only wants to escape, brilliantly contrasted with his opposite, the tale of a shiftless prince finally forced to overcome his indolence and making him
Paul Baggaley
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Quick review of a tremendous book, which I read recently after seeing it recommended online. This fantasy has it all - well drawn, complex, major characters coming of age; imaginative cultures and landscapes; vast empires, small kingdoms and poor villages barely surviving. Essentially it tells the tale of two disconnected worlds through the eyes of two or three main characters who could not be more different. I spent a big part of this very large novel wondering if and how these disparate storie ...more
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Richard Nell concerned family and friends by quitting his real job in 2014 to 'write full-time'. He is a Canadian author of fantasy, living in one of the flattest, coldest places on earth with his begrudging wife, who makes sure he eats.

His debut novel, Kings of Paradise, is the first of an epic, coming-of-age, low fantasy trilogy, and a Canadian Amazon best-seller in dark fantasy. It's available

Other books in the series

Ash and Sand (3 books)
  • Kings of Ash (Ash and Sand, #2)
  • Kings of Heaven (Ash and Sand, #3)

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“Faith is the desire for virtue. The pursuit is worthy of respect, if not the conclusions. Try not to judge those who have been led astray.” 1 likes
“What…do I want?” Ruka put his hands to his awful face and closed his golden eyes, shuddering with what could have been a laugh, or a sob. “I want a world where love is not a crime, Priestess, a world where children are not doomed to misery because they are different. I want only laws with mercy, and justice, and wisdom...but I will settle for your pink insides in my palm, and your brains on a rock.” 1 likes
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