Longlisted for the Booknest 2018 Fantasy Awards - Best Self Published Fantasy Novel and Best Debut Novel
"This is a book that deserves to be recognized as not only one of the best self-published books of the year, but also as one of the best Fantasy books of 2018. ."-out of this world book reviews
The King is Dead. Long Live the People!
Mareth is a bard, a serial under achiever, a professional drunk, and general disappointment to his father. Despite this, Mareth has one thing going for him. He can smell opportunity. The King is dead and an election for the new Lord Protector has been called. If he plays his cards right, if he can sing a story that will put the right person in that chair, his future fame and drinking money is all but assured. But, alas, it turns out Mareth has a conscience after all.
Neenahwi is the daughter of Jyuth, the ancient wizard who founded the Kingdom of Edland and she is not happy. It's not just that her father was the one who killed the King, or that he didn't tell her about his plans. She's not happy because her father is leaving, slinking off into retirement and now she has to clean up his mess.
Alana is a servant at the palace and the unfortunate soul to draw the short straw to attend to Jyuth. Alana knows that intelligence and curiosity aren't valued in someone of her station, but sometimes she can't help herself. And so she finds herself drawn into the Wizard's schemes, and worst of all, coming up with her own plans.
Chance brings this unlikely band together to battle through civil unrest, assassinations, political machinations, pirates and monsters, all for a common cause that they know, deep down, has no chance of succeeding - bringing hope to the people of Kingshold.
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"enchanting, thrilling, and funny...a refreshing departure from most cookie-cutter fantasy realms... characters are fresh and intriguing, instantly memorable...you are going to love this book"-waytoofantasy.com
"for people who love that classic fantasy vibe but want something that diverges from the expected ... a pretty fantastic read."-thefantasyinn
"Each time I thought the plot had thickened, it just got more interesting...Quick and light...I found myself smiling through a lot of it."-weatherwaxreport.blog
"...vibrant, like watching a movie...many amazing female characters...I had such a fantastic time reading this book! I can't wait to read more...Incredibly accessible and entertaining."-foreverlostinliterature.com
"This is a book that deserves to be recognized as not only one of the best self-published books of the year, but also as one of the best Fantasy books of 2018. ."-out of this world book reviews
Born in Derby in England, on the day before mid-summers day, David Peter Woolliscroft was very nearly magical. If only his dear old mum could have held on for another day. But magic called out to him over the years, with a many a book being devoured for its arcane properties. David studied Accounting at Cardiff University where numbers weaved their own kind of magic and he has since been a successful business leader in the intervening twenty years.
Adventures have been had. More books devoured and then one day, David had read enough where the ideas he had kept bottled up needed a release valve. And thus, rising out of the self doubt like a phoenix at a clicky keyboard, a writer was born. Kingshold is David’s debut novel and Tales of Kingshold, companion short stories to the novel, are flooding onto the page as fast as David can write them.
He is married to his wife Haneen and has a daughter Liberty, who all live with their mini golden doodle Rosie in Princeton NJ. David is one of the few crabs to escape the crab pot.
I received this as a review request – thanks Mr. Woolliscroft, I had a lot of fun with this one!
r/Fantasy Bingo Squares:
Published 2018 Indie Published Under 2500 ratings One Word Title Reviewed (once posted to Reddit) Protag who is a writer/artist/musician Plot: This book focuses on what it’s like to make a transition from a monarchy to a semi-democratic society that’s holding its first election.
The King and Queen were murdered under mysterious circumstances, you find out early on that it was the courts wizard that killed them, and for good reason. The king and queen were hated by most due to stupidly unfair taxing coupled with harsh punishments for those who failed to pay. The reasons the wizard killed them, however, was for a much darker reason, they both were involved in a slave trade and other darker things that prompted the wizard to intervene.
Now that the election is upon Kingshold, there are threads being pulled all over the city. The book follows around a bunch of POV’s who are all linked into the same web, and eventually, all of their storylines come together. Whoever comes to the courts with 1,000 gold crowns can buy a Pyxie, a demon summoned by the wizard, to keep until they tell the Pyxie their vote, and it will be cast for the appropriate candidate.
Mareth is a bard who’s sort of lost his way in life. He sleeps most of the day, drinks and sings most nights, and just rinse and repeat every day. He’s tired of it, but he doesn’t see a good way out, and he’s lost his spark for making songs. Along the way he gets swept up in a civilian revolution where the common people are trying to pool their money to cast a vote.
Alana has scraped her way up the serving ladder from pot scrubber to the personal servant of the wizard, Jyuth. She’s found herself running errands for him and meeting all sorts of people from all walks of life throughout the city. Her sister and Mareth are all working for a common cause, trying to get the commoners to take advantage of this unprecedented chance at having a say about who’s in power.
Hoskin is the son of the kings right hand, and has been at the palace all of his life, and serves as a type of administrator to the crown. Once the king and queen had been disposed of, his position became more precarious and more stressful as he tries to hold the kingdom together until they can sort out the election process.
Motega and his two friends travel together doing odd jobs most people wouldn’t want to do. They are arriving in Kingshold returning from a mission to find books and bring them back to a merchant who deals with a very specific sort of clientele. Once that job was completed, they took on another job from the same employer trying to find blackmail/evidence that one of the candidates running for Lord Protector is dirty and can use it to dissuade people from casting votes for them. While trying to find the evidence against the noble, they run into an old boss of theirs, the Mother of the Twilight Exiles. She’s going to kill one of Motega’s friends if they don’t come up with enough money for her to cast a vote in the election. Their storyline is off to the side for a while, but it comes together with the other storylines about 40-50% through the book.
I really loved this plotline, each time I thought the plot had thickened, it just got more interesting.
Final Score: 13/15
Characters: Mareth starts out as a guy down on his luck, kind of on the rougher side, hanging out with people drinking every night. However, even during his drunker phases he still has a decent inner moral compass show through when the need arises. A noble comes into town and a riot breaks out, guards are hacking and slashing their way through a crowd and he rushes in to go save them. He starts drinking less and less, and becomes a hard-working character with a drive in life. I really enjoy when a character has a redemption arc and finds a purpose, it’s satisfying to read about. Especially on the heels of reading First Law trilogy haha.
Hoskin is a sarcastic kind of person, he loves taunting the nobles who come in and out of court asking for this and that. He likes trying to get a rise out of them, and always keeps his own cool. He’s extremely smart, and he prefers his books to being involved in politics, but he can’t find a way out until this election is over. What he really wants is to go home to his family, not deal with the new Lord Protector.
Neenahwi is the wizards adopted daughter, and she’s a fiery one. She’s had a sordid past where she was sold into slavery and saved by the wizard Jyuth and trained in magic. She faced down a demon at the beginning of the book in order to get a special gem that has incredible power and is striving to learn how to tap into that power. She’s also being handed the realm because Jyuth wants to retire, he’s tired of always being in charge and learning to live with mistakes. He wants to go somewhere warm and just work on his studies. He’s hundreds of years old and has had enough.
Motega is loyal to his friends, and although they do a lot of shady stuff, like steal evidence out of noble’s houses, overall he’s still a decent person. He doesn’t approve of “actual theft” of money or wealth for their own gain. He has boundaries after all 🙂 He’s quick on his feet and talks his way out a dangerous situation rather than hacking and slashing his way through even though he could have.
Final Score: 13/15
World Building: This is a secondary world filled with magic and different sorts of creatures. The magic is pretty mysterious, there’s no real magic system per se, more like vague rules involving runes and the like. Burning through too much of your own mana can be dangerous, so it’s best to use the life forces around you, like the trees or grass or animals.
Jyuth derives a lot of powers from several gems similar to the one that Neenawhi stole from a demon. It allows him to live for centuries and also tap into power he can’t get elsewhere.
Demons of all sorts are in this world, some tameable like the pyxies, and others less so.
There are a lot of different countries and cultures referenced throughout the book. One of the more interesting ones were the Deep People. They are dwarves, sort of. They are short and broad, but also albino in appearance and have to wear special tinted glasses while being above ground.
There are a host of guilds all over the city, including a legal guild of assassins. There’s a guild of moneylenders, lawmakers, bakers, spicers etc.
Final Score: 12.5/15
Writing: I wouldn’t call this laugh out loud funny, but there was a lot of light humor used through the book, a lot of it in sarcasm or quips. I really enjoyed how quick and light this read, and I found myself smiling through a lot of it.
This was also written very clean, I didn’t catch anything as far as spelling or grammar. There’s not a lot of simile or metaphor so you sort of speed through this.
Final Score: 11.5/15
Pacing: At first when the POV’s were jumping around in the beginning I was having a small bit of trouble with the pacing. Most of the POV’s were introduced in the first 10% of the book, so I was trying to figure out who was who and how everything was connected. I didn’t know who they were when they were introduced, but by the end of their chapters I had a good idea about how they’d fit into the story.
Once the story got going I was turning pages FAST, I really wanted to figure out how everything was going to play out. There isn’t a terrible amount of “action” although there is some of that, it was more political intrigue and wondering what was going to happen next in the election.
Final Score: 11.5/15
Originality: There were a lot of elements I’ve seen before, like a wizard who’s ancient and is a behind the scenes player in the government, pyxies and demons I’ve seen before and all that. However, I really liked the first time try outs for a democracy thing, I don’t see that happening too often and it lead to a really interesting storyline.
Final Score: 11/15
Personal Enjoyment: I really liked this book, it’s just my kind of book. There were a lot of interesting characters, a lot of which had growth and development. The world building was enjoyable and the setting felt real. I also really enjoyed the overall tone of the book, this wasn’t a comedy, but it was light and had its moments where it was pretty funny. It’s nice to get a book like this following a grimdark. I was pleasantly surprised that Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler was referenced in a brief one-liner blink and you’ll miss it quote, it earned a bit of brownie points there. (This is not a “reference” heavy book, it’s not like Kings of the Wyld)
Final Score: 8.8/10
Audience: For people who like multi pov For people who like old school magic and wizards For people who like secondary worlds For people who like a lighter tone For people who like a lot of magic For people who like a lot of politics For people who like when the city takes a big part in the story Not for people who don’t like cursing, 37 fucks given Final Score: 81.3/100 (4.1 Stars)
I received a copy of the audiobook from Tantor Media in exchange for an honest review.
An enjoyable classic fantasy romp with some modern touches, Kingshold is a commendable debut by DP Woolliscroft.
This first book of The Wildfire Cycle is heavy on politics as its major plotline is centred around the election of a new Lord Protector to the Kingdom of Edland. With the current King dead and after many generations of useless monarchs, the ancient wizard, Jyuth, who founded the kingdom refused to take any further responsibility in choosing the next one. Instead, an election was proposed and the story ensued with political scheming and assassinations (which are perfectly legal if performed under a contract).
There were some references to a neighbouring kingdom which may be setting its eyes on conquering Edland, but it remained in the sidelines throughout the course of this book. Politics is a necessary evil whether in real life or in books, but never one of my favourite topics. This is the primary reason that I couldn’t rate this book higher, even though the book is quite fun and has a good cast of characters. The worldbuilding is pretty contained within Kingshold at this point. There is the familiar but still interesting magic which involves shapeshifting, use of life energy (or mana) and demon stones. We also have the usual fare of dwarves being expert smiths and living underground, pirates and a medieval city which has very marked social division. What the book lacked in breadth though, it made up in depth with the vivid setting of the city of Kingshold.
The characterisation is easily the best part of the story, with some great female representation. It appears that Woolliscroft was not averse to utilising character tropes and he managed to make it work. I especially have a soft spot for the ‘band of brothers’ trope and in this, we have Motega, Trypp and Florian making up a trio of adventurers, or to be more exact, talents for hire. Then there is the bard, Mareth, who has a special ability to influence the hearts and thoughts of others through song. The main female characters are well-written in the form of Neenahwi, the adopted daughter and apprentice to Jyuth, and Alana, an intelligent castle maid who finds herself drawn into the political game between the machinations of the nobles and the uprising of the common people. We do have quite a large cast of characters; there are more which I’ve not mentioned. And I found most of them to be sufficiently well fleshed-out for me to appreciate their motivations and actions, and enjoy the interactions between these characters.
It did take me quite some time to get drawn into the story because of the numerous shifts in character perspectives earlier on in the story. Together with the heavily political slant to the narrative, there were quite a few moments where I got distracted while listening to the audiobook. The female narrator was an interesting choice for this book as the male POVs seemed more dominant, but it appeared to work. The narrator was brilliant with dialogues, incorporating just the right nuances and inflections into the voices of the various characters. She employed accents that managed to differentiate the nobility from the commoners, as well as the foreigners. I also loved the clarity of her articulation and how she handled the humour with a deadpan approach.
Coupled with the engaging writing style of the author, the narrated story kept me entertained with its light humour, as well as diverse and colourful characters. Admittedly, the political intrigue in this book could sometimes be quite fun too. I couldn’t really tell where the series will head from here but Kingshold is a promising start.
Kingshold is a fantasy book that is entered into Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO contest, and I was kindly given a copy by the author, D. P. Woolliscroft, to read and review. 👑 Without giving too much away, the book begins with the monarchy of Kingshold being dissolved and the instillation of a democratic republic system. The focus of the story is a murderous rivalry for position of the Lord Protector. 👑 The things that really stood out to me in Kingshold was the use of traditional magic with unique twists. Neenahwi, a tribal hedge Witch, was a character I got pretty enthusiastic about, she could shape shift and use energy sources and weaves to channel her powers. Another character that was pretty unique was, Motega, who could use his spirit animal for various situations. I found that I instantly liked the mage Jyuth who was quite ambiguous in nature. 👑 I did find that the humour in the book was a tad bit misplaced at times. I think I personally would have preferred a more serious tone in some sections, especially when character’s lives were at stake. I also found the use of modern slang words such as; ‘noggin’, ‘gonads’ and ‘goolies’ jarred me out of the story. 👑 I found that the ending was really good. It had a fair amount of action which involved pirates and a very cool battle with a monster/demon. However throughout the rest of the book the pace was far too slow for me. The heavy focus on the politics of the monarchy transgressing to a republic state, and a revolution of the poorer people, slowed the pace down too much for me. I would have preferred a bit more focus on the threat of invasion which was underlying throughout the story, and a few more battle scenes in the middle rather than having it all at the end. 👑 On reflection there is a lot to like about Kingshold, but with the majority of the focus on the political side of the story, and less on the militaristic side, isn’t really my kind of fantasy book. However if you do like that kind of thing then this book would definitely be for you.
Full review below. Kingshold's custom cocktail is available at The Fantasy Inn.
Kingshold is an entertaining look at a fantasy world’s transition from monarchy to democracy. Jyuth, an ancient wizard, has been quietly pulling the strings behind the scenes for centuries. When the dark secrets of the King and Queen are revealed to him, he decides that he’s pretty much done propping up sociopathic royals and he wants Kingshold to be handed off to a better class of bastard. To this end, he murders the shit out of them, dissolves the monarchy, and calls for an election. Politics being what they are in pretty much any society, the haves are terrified of the have-nots getting a say, and so some rules are set in place that a refundable deposit of 1000 gold must be paid in order to be allowed to vote, preventing all but the elite from having their voices heard. An assortment of rich arseholes put themselves forward for the position of Lord Protector, and that’s when the assassinations begin.
Are you ready? Because we’re just getting started.
This is a cleverly plotted multi-PoV tale, and it’s told with an enormous amount of enthusiasm and wit. The characters are all deeply thought out and utterly charming, to the point where I had to remind myself that this is a debut novel. Neenahwi is a fiery sorceress with a traumatic past, a pragmatic attitude and a boatload of sass. Mareth is a ne’er do well Bard with a desire to be better man. Alana is a serving girl with a good head on her shoulders and she’s absolutely bright as a button. There’s a trio of rogues who I think are all the way up there with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Royce and Hadrian, and Locke and Jean in terms of banter. Jyuth is a Dumbledore-level schemer who loves those close to him dearly but he is done with everyone’s shit. We start off reading each character’s individual thread, and as the story progresses Woolliscroft braids these threads together and everything begins to shine.
Have I mentioned that I had a really good time?
So, it’s not a comedic fantasy exactly, but it did make me laugh really hard more than a couple of times. I’d liken it to Scott Lynch’s style in that respect, but… more British. Woolliscroft and I are both British expats, so that might explain why the hybrid Brit/American tone really worked for me. There are a lot of sly Discworld references and some creative swearing, and the comedic timing is spot on. Woolliscroft’s political commentary is based in reality rather than pure imagination, so parallels can be drawn to today’s political climate and that might either tickle or irritate you depending on your own leanings. If you like your humor on the dry, slightly pessimistic side, you’ll find much to enjoy here.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. There are some awkwardly crafted sentences here and there, the pacing has some issues (probably 50 pages could have been shaved to make it tighter), and there are anachronisms within the dialogue that some readers may find jarring. Even so, this is one of the strongest debuts I have read in some time. I hesitate to dock it a star because frankly, while I acknowledge that Kingshold is in some ways a diamond in the rough, that diamond is the size of a goddamn baseball. I have read more polished books that I enjoyed a lot less. The characters, plot and worldbuilding are absolutely stellar, and I will be ordering a physical copy of both this novel and Tales of Kingshold as a Christmas gift to myself. If you’re looking for something funny, charming, and a little different, I can’t recommend it enough.
It was a wonderful reminder of exactly why I take review requests, and with a debut this special I can’t wait to watch this author’s writing develop.
Many thanks to the author for proving ARC of the book to the BookDragonNest for a review!
This is a new indie title and I had a lot of fun reading it. It just goes to show once more that independent writers do not pull their punches and in the last 12 month alone I was surprised again and again with the strengths of their game.
Kingshold is a perfect case-in-point. It is written in a very easy going style. Even though it is 500+ pages long - they melt away before you know it. I found this book particularly enjoying on the late evening commutes from work. For a week or so - this was my mindfulness exercise :). It is easy to read, easy to follow - a mind-candy through and through. Escapism as it is meant to be.
In fact, I think this is a kind of a book that I would have written myself (only it is much better done by D.P. Woolliscroft here). It is a literary buffet-lunch of everything great about fantasy. Or a written account of a D&D campaign (depends on how you look at it). And I am confident fans of Kings of the Wyld or The Grey Bastards or City of Kingswould have a really good time with this book as well.
I will not focus on the plot points at all and the set up of the book is described well in the blurb description... But here are the things you should know about this book. This is a good ol' high fantasy with some drapings of the recent grimdark-ly sword & sorcery releases. A kind of a blend of the two. For example, if you take the worldbuilding alone, it is reminiscent of Abercrombie's "First Law". You have your geographically isolated state, a monarchy micromanaged by a century-old wizard, and threatened by the oversees enemies with arcane arsenals... On the bright side, it is sufficiently tame to spare you from graphic blood and gore descriptions. It would belong to the same shelf that has Sapkowski, Hobbs and Jordan on it.
From the very first pages, it becomes obvious that our author is a long time fantasy fan (and I strongly suspect a tabletop player). So the book reads like a letter of love to the fantasy genre. Think of Tarantino movies that make multiple references or allusions to the films that came before. Same here, you bump in all kinds of fantasy archetypes and plot tropes that you have probably seen... An ancient city with a shady past? Check. Dwarven smiths and catacombs. Check. Fantasy races. Here. Ne'er-do-well bards of the noble lineage. Got them. Criminal syndicate with their tentacles sprawling the world? We got you there as well. Shapeshifters? You bet. Pirates? Guess harder. Crafty maids? Demons on a loose? Mysterious artefacts? A band of adventurers? Yes, yes, yes and of course. We can play this game for some time, I promise
The reliance on the conventional tropes is a double-edged sword. You may feel that it is just too much of everything... For example, I am a fan of Critical Role (who isn't, right?). But I am not convinced it would make a good novel if you put the shenanigans of the ‘party of intrepid adventures’ into prose... Kingshold will give you a taster for what that may have looked like...
Another gripe of mine is incredibly anachronistic dialogues. Yeah, the characters wear robes, carry swords and other medieval paraphernalia but the language they use sometimes could go straight to Snapchat :) That was irking me along the way a little and rattling the immersion illusion. You may feel differently on this.
Overall: 6/10. Recommended for the hardcore fantasy fans and those who enjoy fantasy but does not have miles of pages behind them yet.
I received a copy of Kingshold from the author in exchange for an honest review.
The King and Queen are hated, then murdered and now election is upon Kingshold.
Kingshold follows a group of characters who are all linked. There's Mareth the bard, who doesn't really know what to do with life. He sleeps and drinks a lot. To me, that sounds like an amazing life, but he's not happy. Alana is the personal servant of the wizard, Jyuth. She's incredibly clever and her chapters were a joy to read. Then there's Hoskin, temporarily in charge until the election is over. He's a bit grumpy because, well, things are a mess. Motega and his group of friends are doing odd jobs. They're a treat to read about, and definitely a charming bunch of blokes. Neenahwi is a kick-ass character with a sordid past. She's not happy either, mostly because her adopted father, Jyuth, after something like 800 years, wants to simply retire and leave Kingshold for good.
All characters are very well developed and bring something to the table. It took me a few chapters to get used to the prose and the author's voice, but before long I found myself chuckling a lot. It's a light read with a lot of wit and the occasional sarcastic quip.
The world building is mostly focused on the city of Kingshold, but it feels like a real place including affluent neighbourhoods, slums and, of course, the palace. The magic is interesting, and I can't wait to find out more about the different creatures that live in this world.
Kingshold starts out slowly. I believe it moves at a slower pace than your average fantasy book. That isn't a bad thing. In fact, I quite enjoyed discovering more about Kingshold and the characters before I got to that point about halfway through, where I simply had to keep reading until I reached the last page.
I recommend Kingshold to any fantasy fan who ever wondered what would happen if one day a monarchy decided to have democratic (sort of) elections instead of replacing the dead king.
KINGSHOLD is the debut offering from self-published author DP Woolliscroft and the first entry in his Wildfire Cycle. Woolliscroft hails from Derby, England and now resides in Princeton New Jersey (a hop, skip, and jump from my current city of residence by the way). But I digress.....My attention was drawn to this author when I began following him on Twitter and kept seeing all of the discussion regarding his first book just released this past April. I was even more intrigued when it was recently announced that KINGSHOLD would be one of 300 entries in Mark Lawrence's highly regarded Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off contest for 2018. So when offered a chance to receive a review copy by the author himself, I must say that I was very excited to get a chance to read it and write a review before the contest kicked off in earnest. Upon reading the brief description of the plot, I was even more eager to begin the story as it seemed to be the type of Fantasy book that I usually love immersing myself in. So I started reading this 500 page tome exactly one week ago and finished late last night. If the speed with which I flew through the pages is any indication, I think you can make a pretty accurate guess as to how I felt about this book. And so now a little bit more about KINGSHOLD....
KINGSHOLD is a place embroiled in treachery and upheaval. The King and Queen were just recently discovered murdered under a cloud of mystery. The opening paragraphs describe a court in chaos as the different factions and leaders struggle to understand what just took place and who might be responsible. It is soon revealed that the ancient wizard Jyuth was the one who committed the regicide, but for what reasons is still unclear. The only thing that is clear is that the monarchy has been abruptly abolished in one night and there must now be new elections to select a Lord Protector of KINGSHOLD who will rule the new government. Jyuth, King-maker and ever the opportunist, sees a chance to influence the selection while making a bit of coin for himself in the process due to the fact that the only way someone can put vote their choice is by making a substantial monetary donation. And so the race to become Lord Protector begins with the back-stabbing and double-dealing getting incredibly hot and heavy. Mareth is a bard of middling renown who is suddenly thrust into one of the biggest eras of chaos that KINGSHOLD has ever seen in its long history. Mareth is pretty much a drunk and an underachiever, what you would call a slacker by today's standards. Being a bard, this is his greatest chance to erase all of that and place his selection in the leadership chair should he be able to sing the story that will unite everyone behind his choice. Mareth believes that fame is just around the corner and all of the spoils and drinking money that go along with it. Meanwhile, the reason for the King and Queen's assassination is revealed to be because they were engaged in a vile slave trade which was negatively impacting the reputation and governing of KINGSHOLD and which the wizard Jyuth simply could not abide any longer. As the candidates come forward to vie for the new position of Lord Protector, the political maneuvering begins to get a bit out of control and bribing, killing, and violent rioting become the order of the day. Suddenly the future of KINGSHOLD may not be at all certain and whether or not there can be an orderly transition at all is very much in doubt. There are also those outside the confines of KINGSHOLD who see the civil unrest and instability as a very real chance to finally tear down the once mighty kingdom and finally give power to those unfortunate and poverty-stricken who reside just outside its walls. Will the wizard Jyuth achieve his ultimate goal to raise a Lord Protector to the throne and restore stability to KINGSHOLD or will chaos and anarchy ultimately reign supreme, plunging the kingdom into a much different era where no one is positive of the eventual outcome? Nothing is as it seems and motivations shift with the wind in this complex yet utterly readable medieval Epic Fantasy by DP Woolliscroft.
Every once in a great while a book just comes out of left field and completely floors me. KINGSHOLD is one of those very books. I have to say that the quality of self-published books, especially in the Fantasy genre, has risen to unseen heights recently. Credit established Fantasy author Mark Lawrence for giving voice and visibility to those authors who ten or even five years ago would have never been given a chance of reaching such a large audience. It would have been a real crime had KINGSHOLD never been afforded the opportunity to reach the masses because it is simply a wonderful and engaging Fantasy read. And it surprised the hell out of me with how it grabbed my attention from the first page and then demanded that I keep reading and reading and reading. One of the many wonderful aspects of this book in my opinion is the way the main character is written. I kept going back and forth in my head as to whether or not I believed Jyuth was a hero or a villain. He is portrayed in such a way that you aren't entirely sure whether he has the best interests of KINGSHOLD truly at heart or whether he is simply a selfish lout who is only concerned with furthering his own agenda. The picture does become clearer as you get further into the book, but it was a masterful job of keeping the reader guessing and not creating the usual cookie-cutter characters that most Fantasy books are teeming with these days. I would also classify this as Political Fantasy, in that the majority of the plot deals with the election of the new Lord Protector and the strategic positioning of all of the candidates and their backers. That being said, I was never bored by this and there is quite enough action to satisfy those who crave that as well. Another element that was interesting was the use of modern day slang and profanity set against a very Medieval Fantasy period. The contrast was a unique approach and I thought that it lent a gritty realism to what could have been a very stale "same old Fantasy" story. There are so many things that I loved about KINGSHOLD and I really didn't want it to end. In fact, I may eventually go back and read it again very soon if I have some time because it was that entertaining a story. I really hope that both KINGSHOLD and author DP Woolliscroft advance to the finals in the SPFBO challenge. This is a book that deserves to be recognized as not only one of the best self-published books of the year, but also as one of the best Fantasy books of 2018 period. It could very well win the whole thing when all is said and done. All due accolades to DP Woolliscroft, I eagerly anticipate the next installment in the Wildfire Cycle. Oh, and please write faster!
Kingshold is an incredible political fantasy debut that could be the initial stepping stone for a truly remarkable series. This book has been on my radar for quite some time and I’m really glad I’ve finally gotten to dive into this fascinating world the author has so meticulously created.
The city of Kingshold is in upheaval after the unexpected assassination of its king and queen and dissolution of its monarchy. For the first time in history, the decision of who rules will be in the hands of its citizens - or at least those that can afford a voice. In a campaign to determine who will assume the mantle of Lord Protector, prominent figures emerge as favorites. However, after witnessing the social injustices of the current lay of the land, a group of unlikely compatriots are steadfast in their resolve to bring change that will benefit all in the city and not just those in the Upper Circle.
There are so many things to praise in this story, the characters and setting topping the list. We spend most of our time in the sprawling city of Kingshold, so finely constructed and detailed by Woolliscroft, that it becomes comfortably familiar. The hierarchical social structure directly affecting the layout of the different districts, each inhabited by realistic people making the environment tangible. Whether running across rooftops in the slums or meditating in a palace chamber, you feel as though you’ve truly been transported into this world.
We’re introduced to a wonderful cast of beautifully developed, colorful characters, all of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. The story has a large group of point of view characters, but the author seamlessly weaves them together to keep the story flow fluid and easy to follow. Lately I’ve been on a binge of darker fantasy and I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to spend time with a group of likable protagonists that aren’t apparently masking malice with charm.
Another thing I adored about this story was its organic and almost lighthearted humor. As we’re dealing with a story of political intrigue peppered with assassinations and suppression of the common people, there’s always a chance that adding splashes of humor can feel forced or out of place - this is definitely not the case with Kingshold. Woolliscroft manages to expose very serious concepts in a natural way without dipping into the darker aspects that are currently flooding the fantasy genre.
Thanks to SPFBO and a larger focus on self-published writers, I’ve had the honor of reading some impressive works by authors that I may not have heard of otherwise. This story is no exception. There are a few loose ends that need tying and I’m really looking forward to continuing my journey in the Jeweled Continent in future installments of The Wildfire Cycle. I highly recommend.
Kingshold does almost everything right. The combination of proper humour, social satire and the commentary on real-world history in a fantasy setting works well for me. Add memorable characters to the mix and take my money.
Mr Woolliscroft's debut is ambitious, and it mostly succeeds on all fronts.
After the assassination of Kingshold's rulers, the ancient wizard behind the throne decides he wants kings and queens no more. But what's the alternative? Well, why not let the people vote and choose their next ruler?
Kingshold follows society's transition to proto-democracy. Obviously, the idea of a free vote and election doesn't excite nobles and lords as much as it does the old magi. Treason, assassinations and mayhem ensue. And amid all this turmoil, a charming cast of characters tries to survive and do some good.
The novel takes place almost exclusively in Kingshold. I have a clear image of the city in my mind. Bravo for making it real. Readers looking for exciting worlds to explore may find the scope of the story is too limited, but I'm sure sequels will explore new lands and introduce new characters. Personally, I've enjoyed the narrow focus.
The prose flows nicely and is often humorous. Where some novels try too hard to be funny and assault readers with way too many jokes and anecdotes, Kingshold remains focused on plot development. The humour never felt forced or out of place.
The pacing. Well. It could be better. The story develops slowly, and sometimes it drags. I'm sure cutting out 20% of the book would make it stronger, better and faster. Happily, likeable characters and plot twists compensate slower moments.
Efficiently handling five POVs requires skill. Using more than one POV allows readers to see things through more than one character’s mind. Cool. But everything comes at a price. Using multiple POVs can make the story feel fragmented and destroy its focus. Additionally, there's just no way a reader will care equally for all POV characters. The more POV characters you have, the more you’re forcing me to spread out my attention and my loyalty. Unfortunately, that's the case here. There are three POVs that feel deeply important, one that makes one of the final chapters shocking and one I could live without (sorry Alana).
Colourful cast of main and secondary characters moves the plot forward. Two characters that stood out for me were Mareth (a bard rumoured to be a Spellsinger, a drunkard and a decent human being) and Neenahwi (a powerful but still young and relatively unexperienced wizard). I'm sure every fantasy reader will easily find a relatable character in Kingshold.
Despite minor flaws, Kingshold is an exciting debut worth attention. Especially when you're looking for a lighter read that doesn't try to be deadly serious all the time.
Introduction Kingshold is one of those serendipitous moments that happens in life. I was randomly browsing through twitter when I saw that the author had asked for reviews of his forthcoming book – the third in the series. One thing led to another, I liked the synopsis and ended up reading both Kingshold and Tales of Kingshold back to back.
The verdict? Both these books were very enjoyable.
But before we get into why, what is Kingshold or for that matter – ‘The Wildfire Cycle’ about. So far, it seems to be a centered around the titular city – Kingshold – in the island of Edland, where there is a regime change in progress. The father figure – a wizard named Jyuth – has decreed that that Edland will no longer be a kingdom. and that the ruler will be determined through an election. Multiple hijinks ensue as a result of this decree. The rest of the story is focused on this election and is told from the point of view (POV) of multiple characters.
Characters There are quite a number of characters in the book with 2-3 getting a little more attention than the others. The characters range from a bard who is down on his luck to a band of mercenaries, from the wizard to the bookish chancellor, from a servant girl to the wizard’s daughter and plenty more. I found each and every one of these characters interesting.
Admittedly, I went into Kingshold not expecting to particularly love it. I'm not huge on big, political stories. I prefer much smaller scale, personal stories. But I'm happy to say that the book surprised me in a really great way and ended up being the best of both worlds.
Woolliscroft took a larger scale framework and made it all about the characters. They're the driving force behind the narrative, rather than the political machinations. Luckily, all of the characters are highly entertaining in their own right and have fun, intriguing storylines that weave throughout the entire book, intersecting at various times and affecting the larger arc in both large and small ways.
And while I'm thankful the focus was on the characters, I'm pleasantly surprised to report that the actual political storyline was highly engaging and compelling as well. It contained several twists and turns and I found myself invested in finding out how it was going to play out.
The worldbuilding was also strong. It all takes place in one city, the titular Kingshold, and while I can't say I have a huge grasp on how the city is laid out or anything, Woolliscroft weaved details and titles and other such things throughout the descriptions and dialogue that made the city feel fleshed-out and real. Not to mention the conflicts and references to other countries, as well as the underground dwarven city beneath Kingshold. It's a fascinating world that I hope we get to see more aspects of in the rest of the series, because while Kingshold was an interesting place to bounce around, it seems like the rest of Edland and the surrounding places are just as interesting and ready to be explored.
While reading, I couldn't help but be reminded of Daniel Abraham's writing style, in both his Dagger & Coin series as well as his work with The Expanse. By that, I mean the way that there's a large scale (usually political) backdrop, but we focus on the personal stakes of that huge story. And on a more technical writing level, both Woolliscroft and Abraham are adept at propelling the narrative with every single chapter, not wasting a single moment in the book, as well as showcasing how each individual character is important to the narrative and how their actions all intersect or bounce off each other. It's not an easy task, but both authors make it seem so.
Given the ending combined with the fact that this is only the first book of a series, I'm incredibly interested in seeing where the story and these characters go from here. The second book can't come soon enough!
This is the story of a few different people, who live in (or around) the city of Kingshold. The King and Queen are dead, caught doing horrible shenanigans by their wizard, Jyuth. He has decided that since he was the one that started the monarchy, and that it’s been getting worse and worse every time, it is time for a democracy. So, he declares the monarchy abolished (by murderkilling the king and queen), and that there will be an election in a month to see who will lead the city.
And so, as you can imagine, the nobility all go to ridiculous lengths to cheat, assassinate, or bribe themselves into power. Many political shenanigans are had.
We see this story from a few perspectives:
-Mareth is a usually-drunken bard who takes it upon himself to record the story of the election and compose the ultimate song. As the election proceeds, with varying levels of shenanigans involved, this becomes a bit harder to achieve. -Neenahwi is the adopted daughter of Jyuth, and a powerful magic user in her own right. When she returns to Kingshold after a fairly short absence, nothing is as she left it, and it’s almost certainly the fault of her father, who has decided that he’s leaving at the end of it all, and putting her in his place. -Alana is Jyuth’s servant that gets caught up in Jyuth’s shenanigans, and has to dig herself out of it. Her and her sister Petra are hoping to get a commoner elected as Lord Protector, in the best interest of most of the city. -Motega and his two companions Florian and Trypp are men with… a varied skillset that are hired to find evidence that one of the candidates is on the shady side of things, and when they break into his house to find that evidence they find themselves being blackmailed into gathering enough money that an old acquaintance of theirs can vote in the election. -Hoskin is the man put in charge of things while the election is going on. He’s not really having a good time of it.
This seems like a lot of POVs, but I didn’t find this many perspectives difficult to keep up with, but then I listened to this one in audio, so, the accents and tone changes generally cover that sort of thing.
I loved the characters in this one. Mareth really grew as a character over the course of this book as his circumstances change. He was an easy character to root for, because he is inherently a good dude. He is tempted at times to do things that are wrong, but tries to resist. The times that he does do things that have consequences that aren’t great it is usually because he hasn’t really thought it through all the way, or that whatever he is doing is very spur of the moment. Mareth has some interesting abilities that manifest over the course of the story as well. I just really enjoyed my time with him.
Motega was another character that I also really liked. He and his friends are a fantastic team, even if what they do is sometimes dubiously legal. Or… uh… not at all legal. Motega is Neenahwi’s brother, and both of them are from a tribal people who have close relationships with animals. Motega has a falcon with whom he is bonded with. The falcon is a great help at times.
This story was well written, and well plotted. I never found myself bored with it, even when it was getting into really political shenanigans. There was intrigue while still having plenty of fights, duels to the death, giant fire breathing turtles, panther-headed demons, and what have you to keep things action-packed.
The narrator, Sheila Dearden, did a pretty great job. There wasn’t a huge range of voices, but the ones that were there were all well done, and I found myself able to turn this book on and just listen to it for hours at a time. Some of the accents were a little iffy sounding, but not so much that it ever caused any real issue with my enjoyment. To be honest, she just has a pleasant sounding voice, which makes it easy to listen to, period.
So, all told, I really enjoyed this one quite a bit! I’m very glad that it came out in audiobook because I’ve had this one on my to-read list since the beginning of time, but books in audio make my work day so much better. Especially when they are as good as this one was! I can’t wait until the next installment!
Thanks to the author, as well as Tantor Media for the review copy.
Kingshold by DP Woolliscroft came highly recommended. I picked this book up awhile ago, read the first several chapters, didn’t connect with it, and set it aside. Recently several folks told me I really needed to read this book and so I went back and gave it another shot. I’m glad I did. Kingshold is a unique fantasy adventure, one part epic fantasy and one part political thriller wrapped up with some fun humor.
Woolliscroft has crafted quite the cast of colorful characters. From a wizard who wants to retire—and is perhaps slightly mad and slightly tyrannical—to a drunken bard looking for something to sing about, to a chancellor who would really like to not be in charge, thank you very much, there is a colorful cast of characters to keep you engaged throughout. The plot itself is unique in the extreme, a tale of what it looks like for a monarchy to transition to a system of voting to choose its leader. Of course, being a fantasy, that transition is complicated by magic and other shenanigans. It’s definitely not your run-of-the-mill fantasy, and it’s enjoyable largely because of this. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is plenty of humor and tongue in cheek moments throughout the story that elicit plenty of chuckles.
As I mentioned before, I didn’t immediately connect with the novel. For me, it took until almost 40% of the way in before I was engaged and connected with the story. While I love epic fantasy with multiple viewpoints, I think the storylines were so disparate early on that it felt too disjointed for me. Once individual storylines started to join up, I was highly engaged for the rest of the novel. On a separate note, I’ve already said that Kingshold has plenty of humor, not taking itself too seriously. In that way it’s a little like Stargate SG-1 or the BBC Merlin series. Unfortunately, there were times when I felt like the dialog or narration crossed the line into anachronism. Phrases like, “neat freak” or “you can do it, man!” or “he had to be stopped from going all ceremonial with his mace,” took me out of the story. They are so much a part of the tone of the book—and that’s mostly positive—but they just didn’t work for me.
While it took me awhile to get into, I can’t help but find the story of Kingshold too fun to pass up. I’ll definitely be reading more of Woolliscroft’s work set in this world. If you’re looking for something that is not your standard fantasy, you should give it a try. 3.7/5 stars.
5 – I loved this, couldn’t put it down, move it to the top of your TBR pile 4 – I really enjoyed this, add it to the TBR pile 3 – It was ok, depending on your preferences it may be worth your time 2 – I didn’t like this book, it has significant flaws and I can’t recommend it 1 – I loathe this book with a most loathsome loathing
Regicide, politics, assassinations, pirates, magic, demons, and giant draco-turtles are just taste of what's in store for you in this solid and entertaining self-published debut from D. P. Woolliscroft. Kingshold made it to the semi-finalist round in this year's Self-Published Fantasy Blogg Off (#SPFBO) hosted by author Mark Lawrence and it's easy to understand why. Offering a fresh take on revolution and dynastic change in fantasy literature this first book in the Wildfire Cycle sets the stage for an imaginative and rousing new series.
I read Kingshold back in September as part of Self-Published Fantasy Month but didn't get a chance to write up my review. It made my list of favorite reads for 2018 though and I've been wanting to be sure to review it even if the review came late. Given that it's been about four months this review may not be as good and detailed as I'd prefer. That's nobody's fault but mine.
THE KING IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE PEOPLE.
Mareth is a Bard, a serial underachiever, a professional drunk, and general disappointment to his father. Despite this, Mareth has one thing going for him. He can smell opportunity. The king is dead and an election for the new Lord Protector has been called. If he plays his cards right, if he can sing a story that will put the right person in that chair, his future fame and drinking money is all but assured. But, alas, it turns out Mareth has a conscience after all.
Neenahwi is the daughter of Jyuth, the ancient wizard who founded the Kingdom of Edland and she is not happy. It's not just that her father was the one who killed the king, or that he didn't tell her about his plans. She's not happy because her father is leaving, slinking off into retirement and now she has to clean up his mess.
Alana is a servant at the palace and the unfortunate soul to draw the short straw to attend to Jyuth. Alana knows that intelligence and curiosity aren't valued in someone of her station. But sometimes she can't help herself. And so. she finds herself drawn into the wizard's schemes, and worst of all, coming up with her own plans.
Chance brings this unlikely band together to battle through civil unrest, assassinations, political machinations, pirates and monsters, all for a common cause that they know, deep down, has no chance of succeeding - bringing hope to the people of Kingshold.
Let me add a few more details not mentioned in the blurb above. All this is basically laid out in the first chapter or two so these are very minor spoilers. Jyuth (ancient wizard who founded Kingshold) has killed the king and queen. He apparently does this every so many generations when the monarchs get to screwing up really, really, bad. Each time he selects a new monarch and begins a new dynasty. This time he's had enough and has decided maybe he doesn't make the best choices, or maybe its inevitable that monarchies go bad after the first few generations. Either way he's now decided to institute a republic with a new Lord Protector elected from the populace. Anyone may stand for election, but to vote you have to put up 1000 gold crowns held on deposit by Jyuth until after the election. What follows is the story of how this city and nation rise up to choose their leader and fend off pressures from abroad.
I really only had two issues with Kingshold and I'm gonna talk about them first to get them out of the way.
I thoroughly enjoyed Kingshold but I have to admit it was hard to get into at first. I'm not sure exactly what it was, but the start of the book was a little slow, which seems like an odd thing to say since the opening chapter deals with the death of the city's ruling king and queen. But yeah it took a little while to really get going. I say this in case you're a reader who sets a book down if it doesn't grab you quick. There's nothing wrong with that, and it often is a good indicator the rest of a book may be no different. Kingshold on the other hand does pick up the pace and once it does things really get interesting.
The second thing that bugged me a little in Kingshold was the use of some modern anachronisms, specifically words or turns of phrase that just seemed out of place. The first time I noticed it was on page 3 with the use of "stogy" for a cigar or other item to smoke. Another was the use of "style points" to describe someone's attempt to get away from a charging juggernaut, likening it to a dance. These are just two examples, and while the book isn't filled with anachronisms like these they would pop up here and there and it kind of made me skip a beat.
Now, I know there's an argument to be had that this is fantasy and you can do whatever you like with it (for the most part), and that characters in fantasy settings probably wouldn't use half the phrases we do because they'd have their own that match what would be their unique languages, and really the idea is that what we're reading should be thought of as more of a translation from their language to ours so the author uses our phrases to convey meaning...yeah I get that. At the same time there really are times when using what feels like a modern phrase just seems out of place. Again, the book isn't filled with them, but they did make me pause a bit when reading.
So what did I like? Well...
The Overall Plot
I mean this one seems like a no-brainer, if you like a book you probably liked the plot. What I really liked about it was the idea of overthrowing a monarchy and replacing it with a republic...and all the turmoil that would inevitably ensue. I'm sure other authors have tackled this topic in fantasy but I haven't read them. This was new and fresh for me and a welcome change to the usual "the king is dead, long live the king" manner of succession.
Woolliscroft doesn't make the transition happen easily. I mean otherwise we wouldn't have a story. There's the expected political maneuvering - this is very much a political fantasy - characters immediately put their name in the hat to run for Lord Protector and begin the dirty work of attracting followers and votes. Those running for office not only have to fight for support and votes, they have to survive street brawls and assassination attempts and all the civil discord expected when the old guard is brought down and others want to step in to fill the void. Soon it isn't just the elites, those who are accustomed to the title "Lord" who believe they should hold power. Before long the people begin to wonder what it might be like to wrest that power for themselves, with one of their own as their representative. Well then things really do begin to get interesting.
All of the political infighting in the city of Kingshold occurs within a larger though less explored narrative of the wider world. Woolliscroft gives us just enough information about the other kingdoms and empires that inhabit the world to whet our appetites for the larger story sure to come in later books. By the end some of those other realms begin to play a part in the story of Kingshold in pleasant and surprising ways. Oh...and did I mention pirates!?! Yeah...there are pirates! And one big scene devoted to them was one of my favorites in the book...a city wide pirate...with a...well...I don't want to give anything more away.
But mostly this story plays out in the city of Kingshold and it revolves around the coming election and the efforts some will go to in order to be elected. Like I said, political maneuvering, street brawls, assassinations; the good stuff. This where we get to the second thing I liked about Kingshold...
There's a range of great characters in this story. At first they seem a little hard to keep up with but there's a glossary in the back to help you keep track. And really there's only a few we follow as the story is told from their POV. Inevitably you'll like one more than another. My favorite was Mareth, the bard. He probably has the most developed story arc and character growth. Truth be told at first he isn't very likable. Or at least you could say you could be disinterested in him. He's a down on his luck bard, drunk more often than not, past his prime, and living what little he can on past glories. As the story progresses his character starts to bloom into something more, but he keeps some of that rough edge he had to begin with.
Neenahwi is the mage Jyuth's daughter. Well, adopted daughter but daughter no less. She is a mage herself though not nearly as powerful as her father. She is forced to step-up now that her father has announced he's going into a form of retirement. She's angry about it and makes her feelings known. But she doesn't let that stop her from trying to help in the turmoil that's coming to Kingshold.
Alana is a young girl who has landed a job in the palace and whether by good luck or ill is tasked as Jyuth's servant. She's smart, courageous, and wise beyond her years. What's more she has a bit of pluck, all of which helps her as she soon finds herself in the midst of palace intrigue and political campaigning.
Though we get occasional glimpses of story line from other perspectives it is these three who drive most of the plot and their POV we see the narrative through. They kind of form a triumvirate of views, one from the nobility, one from the peasants, and one who sort of bridges the space between the two. That's not an exact representation but it's close in terms of where the characters are at in their lives.
You might think there isn't much in the way of world building in this novel since it's set mostly just within the city of Kingshold, but you'd be wrong. As I mentioned above, Woolliscroft does explore the larger world. There are the mountain dwarves just outside of the city, and Kingshold's rival empire Pyrfew. These two get the majority of the additional page time not devoted to Kingshold itself, and both play a significant role in the story even if not seen at first. Both nations complicate matters for those in Kingshold and throw uncertainty into the mix of the political chaos of the election.
But where the book shines in its world building is the exploration of Kingshold itself. We get to explore the city from top to bottom, from palace to slums, and each ward in between. We encounter characters from different wards and districts each of whom has had their life shaped by the place they live. The various districts of the city introduce us to the nobility, the guilds, and the common people. It is in the way they interact (or don't interact) that provides part of the overriding tension in the outcome of the election, who will stand for office and who will vote.
The various guilds in Kingshold provide nice bit of depth to the story and to the world that is the city. And it's one of these guilds that is my next favorite part of the book...
The Hollow Syndicate
The Hollow Syndicate is a guild like no other for it is a group of murderers for hire...an assassins guild! I loved every time this group found a spot on the page. A semi-official or perhaps unofficial group that maintains the power and respect due to any legitimate guild organization. If someone takes out a contract with the Hollow Syndicate it's considered a legal transaction. You want to murder someone and get away with it...hire the Hollow Syndicate. Any suspicious death could be due to their actions and when candidates for Lord Protector begin to die you can be sure The Hollow Syndicate is suspected. They are led by Lady Chalice (love that name btw), a female assassin nobody, not even the ruling nobility wants to cross. The Syndicate is always lurking in the background, acting in secret most of the time and then leaping onto the page in a flash to vanish into the background again. I wanted more of this guild and hope they appear in future books.
It did take me a bit to get into this novel but once I did I was hooked. With a fresh take on regime change in fantasy, characters to admire, a city brimming with districts to explore, and action enough to keep you turning the page for more, Kingshold won't disappoint. I'm looking forward to more from Woolliscroft in this series, and I'm in luck because book 1.5 Tales of Kingshold is already out, offering a mix of novelettes and short stories adding depth to the characters and events just introduced. I expect more great things from Woolliscroft in the coming years.
Rating: 4 - 4.5 Stars (I had a hard time choosing so maybe we go with 4.25)
With the Death of the King and Queen, the city of Kingshold begins switching to an election-based government, sparking a scramble for power as the population vies to throw their lot in and have a say in the outcome. Things get interesting when the front runners for the position of Lord Protector start dropping like flies.
Gosh, this book was a lot of fun. I have to admit I was skeptical about this one, just because I knew it was about switching governments and as much as I love intrigue and backstabbing politics in my books, I had it in my head this would be dry and plodding with history book level summaries as to how this democracy would come about. I was so wrong- the only dry part of this story was some of the humor.
Faster paced (consider that I was prepared for history book monologues) and twistier than I expected, this won a lot of brownie points with me just for the sheer fun of the story. I enjoyed the rambly friendly tone of the narration and the sometimes-sly bits of humor throughout, and as a bigger plus, the lovable characters. Mareth, Alana, and the trio of thieves (Motega, Trypp, Florian) were my favorites but there were some close runner-ups with Jules, and a few the others.
This actually had quite a large cast which I gave up trying to keep track at first and just let it thin itself out and for the most part that worked for me- turns out there is a handy cast list in the back of the book too.
The plot does a number of twists and turns as it goes and I especially enjoyed all of the city intrigue and learning about the different guilds and associations. There were a few side schemes that popped up outside of the election plot, some resolved and some lead-ins to things which I assume will be explored more in the next book.
The biggest quibble I can come up with is that it could use some tightening up in places. That same rambly friendly tone gets a little unwieldy at times and occasionally falls into some repetitiveness- catching up characters on events that just happened and that sort of thing. Minor things that didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment but did have me skimming here and there.
Also, if you’re one where having current day language and terms sneaking in bothers you, this may not be your cup of tea- for me I don’t mind when the precedent has been set from the beginning and they’re not too oddly out of context for the time.
An enjoyable read and worth checking it out. I can see with a strong debut like this there will be lots to look forward to in the future from this author.
-Thank you to the author D.P. Woolliscroft, for generously providing a copy through Esme’s tbrinder matchmaking reviewer/author service, which you can find here at The Weatherwax Report- https://weatherwaxreport.blog/2018/04...
I’ve got an ARC of Kingshold, so I’d like to thank D. P. Woolliscroft for reaching out to me asking for a request and providing me a copy.
The plot (at least in the beginning) is pretty simple: the King and Queen are dead by the hands of the ancient wizard Jyuth and although most people are happy with this outcome, the kingdom needs a leader nonetheless. And so Jyuth decides he had enough of kingmaking and lets the good people of Kingshold decide their own fate – if they have the money to vote, that is.
Thus, the race for the Lord Protector title begins: the most promising candidates are Lord Eden and Hoxteth, with General Uthridge, Lady Kingsley and others on the sidelines. Some of them stops at nothing to get what they want, assassination, bribing and inspiring civil unrest are among the tools they use.
There are a handful of people who in the chaos try to make the best of the situation and not only save the city from the hands of incompetent, greedy, weak leaders but from enemies outside of the borders. Neenahwi is not really happy with this turn of events, especially that Jyuth wants to leave her in charge in his place after the election and decides to take matters in her hands. Seeking out the candidates to learn their ways, to see what they can offer to the people and facing her past she doesn’t really want to. Mareth takes the opportunity to be part of history, to commemorate it, so not only his songs but his name would be known for generations to come. He has no idea however, how much this election will change his life. Add to the mix the three troublemaker Motega, Florian and Trypp who just arrived back to the city after 10 years of being away, building a reputation for themselves. All of them are brought together by Alana, a simple servant girl from the Narrows with intelligence and more wit than most of the nobles, with a curiosity and hunger for knowledge, for helping not only her family, but the whole city.
If you think a book about an election is boring, then read Kingshold and see for yourself if you were right. If you get to 40% and don’t wonder how did you read this much already, then probably it’s not your cup of tea. It stands for those too, who don’t like to follow multiple POV’s. Although I have to say they are easy to follow and they are all distinguished from each other so no confusion there. The writing itself is good, we don’t get overwhelmed much with descriptions, the background of the characters are introduced nicely and they are well built. It’s hard to admit, but I can’t even complain about the female characters. Because of the several POV’s it’s a bit hard to build a connection with the characters – and there is not one favored MC, all of them are treated somehow equally – even though everyone will find their favorite. However, the dialogues are needing some improvement. Sometimes they make you roll your eyes, sometimes it’s obvious they are used as info dumpings and I still don’t understand what’s with british people using each others’ names every damn time. Let’s see a made up example (please note that this is not actually in the book):
“Mareth!” “Yes, Petra dear?” “I love your songs, Mareth. Please never stop singing!” “Thanks, Petra, you are a darling. Jules!” “Yes, Mareth?” “Give us an extra round, will you, Jules?” “Of course Mareth, my pleasure!”
Okay, I might have exaggerated a bit, but you get my meaning. Also, some punches would have been bigger hits if they were handled better. Most of the time early hints are well placed, you totally disregard them and so you are surprised when they get back, but some were not so subtle. No details, otherwise I would spoil things for readers. Suffice to say, the editing needs a bit of work, but again, this is a debut book, and a pretty good one at that.
It’s quite obvious some of the events in this book are inspired by real historical events, especially Edland’s history, the way Edward got to lead: I could sense a nod to the battle of Hastings and to the Arthurian legends as well. Might be my imagination though, because it’s pretty subtle.
Overall, Kingshold is a great debut novel which has potential to be even better as the series will go on. The story has a nice arc, most of the questions are answered, but there are enough left open to keep you interested. Although the ending was quite predictable, a little twist of events made its way into it, which you couldn’t see coming. D. P. Woolliscroft pulls the strings effortlessly, making an otherwise boring election into something exciting like a car race. You never know what will happen next and which candidate will have to take a break a little too early. Or when a monster or other enemy pops up to make the race a little more interesting in general. If you like your book heavy with political intrigues and schemes, a few monsters here and there with some other fantasy creatures (strawberry blowing pyxies!) appearing, spiced with a little magic, then don’t look more, Kingshold is for you!
I’m a big sucker for books that start simple and then wallop me with all their complexities, and that’s what I got with Kingshold. In fact, I wasn’t sure what I was going to end up with when I started reading the book. For those of you who are in the “covers don’t sell books” camp, it’s literally the cover art that sold this book to me. I saw it and thought, “I need to know more.”
In truth, the cover art is very indicative of the book itself, and not just for the obvious reasons (hello, it is the cover of the book). On the cover you get the scene of this city, this vast, sprawling place. It looks huge. And yet, from the way the light is played with, the focus is instantly drawn to this palatial complex. It dominates the scene, and somehow makes the cover both sprawling and intimate at the same time.
I feel like that’s a pretty good description for the book itself.
You start out with a pretty typical epic fantasy scene. A king and queen have been killed. Where this could cause conflict with many, in this book, a lot of people seem pretty pleased with that fate. Jyuth, an ancient wizard who reportedly committed this crime, has decided he’s pretty over deciding who is in power and thus, an election is called. The people of Kingshold shall, in essence, decide their own fate.
This, right away, intrigued me. There are a lot of empires and a lot of empire building in epic fantasy but precious few epic fantasy books involve elections. I am nothing if not a sucker for taking a turn off the beaten path. I will say, if you don’t find politics and machinations interesting, this might not be the book for you. However, for me, I really enjoyed how Woolliscroft took something that might sound mundane and about as exciting as watching a tax accountant work, and turned it into a story that was pulse-pounding and addicting. The author’s clever use of class differences, as well as characters that are positioned in a way to give readers a bird’s eye view of a surprising array of cultural norms and life in this area was nothing short of genius.
The story is told through numerous points of view, and I was pleased to find them all with distinct voices and easy to tell apart. Some of them will appeal to you more than others, but that’s just the way it rolls. Even the characters that didn’t appeal to me quite as much were stunningly wrought. Their individual stories arc very well over the course of the novel, and I was really intrigued by how Woolliscroft made their personalities contrast and play off each other.
This is a dark book, and while I do think there are some points that could have used a bit more editing (some dialogue felt… stilted), I loved how Woolliscroft seemed to balance that darkness with a bit of something more. Not quite hope, but perhaps it was the understated, even occasionally caustic humor in some of the characters that worked for me, and added just enough levity and humanity into some of these tension-filled moments to make them really resonate and matter as I read.
And that’s really the thing with Kingshold that astounded me. It started out sort of small scale, a bit predictable, and then it took a hard turn off the predictable epic fantasy path and the ball started rolling down the hill. Before I realized what was happening, I’d read the entire book and was hurriedly downloading the second one on my Kindle Unlimited. Mixed with all of this, was some truly wonderful worldbuilding and some intriguing use of magic. There are a few tropes here, ancient wizards being one of them, but the way Woolliscroft dealt with said tropes made them feel fresh and new, and completely his own.
Kingshold is a seriously solid start to a series I cannot wait to follow. The writing is descriptive enough to bring the world, plot, and characters alive without ever going overboard. The characters all feel as individual as Woolliscroft obviously meant them to be (which is no small feat). The book itself is paced perfectly. Once things get going, it’s hard to predict where they will end up.
As far as this book goes, I absolutely loved how the author played with his themes, and how he took something I first anticipated would be a fairly typical empire-building epic fantasy, and turned it into something completely different. I was left reeling, and gasping for breath. Woolliscroft did a marvelous job playing up civil unrest, playing elements against each other, and if some parts of the book felt a little predictable, it was easy to forgive. The story itself was just so well done. I was truly captivated from the first page.
If you’re looking for a bit of a different spin on epic fantasy, you really should check out Kingshold. It’s one of the best first books in a series I’ve read in quite a while. I’ve been a bit burnt out on epic fantasy, to be honest. This book breathed new life into the genre for me. I cannot wait to find out what happens next.
Kingshold is a fascinating multi-character-focused story about a kingdom changing to a democracy, and a community learning how to have a voice, all while keeping you on the edge of your seat wondering about the characters and the outcomes. It takes all the stereotypical elements of a classic fantasy story and puts them together in new ways without feeling like anything was "broken". It's fun, exciting, and interesting, and well worth the time it will take you to read (which probably is short, because it flies by pretty quickly).
High fantasy is one of my most favorite genres though I seldom read it because this genre is known for long, complicated books. So having to read a high fantasy because I have to is a good chance for me. I jumped into reading this book with high expectations and excitement and I’m not disappointed. I’m really glad I joined this blog tour.
The story started with the end of the monarchy in Kingshold which sets the story right away. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story with a post-monarchy setting before, so this concept is very refreshing. I also always enjoy reading about political tales in fictional worlds. I enjoy the intrigues, and schemes and the motivations behind those schemes that political tales go with. Added with the fantasy side, the wizards and the pirates, Kingshold is surely a perfect read.
And oh, the idea of having pixies as means for voting is brilliant.
Kingshold itself as a setting is well-constructed. Right from the very beginning I got a vivid picture of this fictional world thanks to the author’s elaborate descriptions. I feel like I can walk through the streets of Kingshold with a perfect knowledge on where to turn (or maybe hide, if needed.) And the author did it without seemingly info-dumping and he definitely didn’t use flowery language. Just plain old tale narration and it’s perfect.
I’ve read others said the first half of the book is slow but I don’t know, I didn’t find it that way. Maybe because it’s already in my mind that with High Fantasy, it would take long before the real action begins. Like I said this is a favorite genre of mine. But I still agree with others and I think I know the reason why the pacing seems slow, it’s the characters POV.
First of all, I don’t have any problem with the characters. I love Mareth. A bard who once answered the call of adventure so he can tell stories of himself. I mean, wow. Wish I am THAT brave, and I don’t even care if I succeeded at something, the adventure itself is a big reward. This is what happens with Mareth. As the blurb said, he is a serial under-achiever and that makes his character even more interesting. He also appears a little cunning and opportunistic to me which is perfect for these kinds of stories. I just love how clever he is, taking the opportunity to gain things for himself when it’s presented by fate. (Just to be clear, I wouldn’t want this kind of cleverness in real life, just in stories such as this.)
My next favorite is the shape-shifting wizard, Neenahwi. I think her back story and skills and qualities make for protagonist-worthy character. She seemed like someone whose life events I would follow. I mean she’s a wizard and she shape-shift and now she’s in a place she didn’t even like and she has a purpose of righting a wrong. Complete ingredients for a perfect protagonist, if you ask me.
Now, actually there are more characters whose roles in the story are big but I wouldn’t name them for one reason. I feel like they’re a bit typical and I’ve read of them in other stories so I don’t find anything distinctive about their characters, or you know, something notable. But that doesn’t make them badly-written characters, I just don’t think I need to feature them one by one in my review for the reason I stated.
These characters, like I said, is the reason why it takes long for the story to REALLY begin. This is a multi-POV novel and even though I love multi-POVs, I think in Kingshold, it can do with lesser POVs. Maybe just two or three, Mareth and another. But this is just me. Besides, it is not uncommon for high fantasy to have multi POVs. Its just that some POVs here aren’t really interesting. This is the only reason why I didn’t end up rating this with five stars.
The novel Kingshold by self-published author, D.P Woolliscroft and is the first offering of the Wildfire Cycle series. If I could describe Kingshold in a few lines, it would be a beautiful but complicated tapestry. It is written in the vein of dark and intricate fantasy, much like the Malazan series or The Darkness That Comes Before. There are magic and fantasy aspects in Kingshold, but they come second to the political and societal maneuvers of the characters. Because of the breadth and scope of the worldbuilding, the first 200 pages of the story are on the slow side. I don't fault the author for this. He had a lot of history and territory to layout for the reader. Subsequently, I would think later books in the series, Tales of Kinghold and Ioth, City of Lights, require much less narrative exposition and worldbuilding to get going. If you stick with the story and let Woollenscroft build a foundation for the politics and intrigue to sit in, you are rewarded with a well crafted and entertaining political fantasy story.
Kingshold is a place that has been riotously turned on its head. The king and queen of the city have been murdered, their heads set upon pikes. The governing body is in chaos. It is a vacuum that wants to be filled by the vainglorious and social climbers. Jyuth, the ancient wizard that had guided the court for centuries, is guilty of the regicide. Tired of bad kings and queens, he sets out the rules for a new election.
The people will vote on a new leader.
Anyone can vote as long as you can put in the 1000 coins to earn a spot at the voting table. This causes the disenfranchisement of many would-be voters; only the rich and elite get a say. And with that thought, the race to the crown proceeds. There are death, back-stabbing, pay-offs, propaganda, and riots. Everything you would come to expect in a situation like that.
Kingshold is entirely character-driven once the settings are set for the story. Most of it revolves around Mareth, the bard. Mareth is a man with stars in his eyes and the intelligence to help shape the future of Kingshold. Jyuth is the great wizard that set about starting this tumultuous election in the first place. Both of these characters' machinations shape the kingdom's future.
Another one of the real strengths of the story is the humour. This isn't a powerful laugh-out-loud type story. But Woolliscroft does a great job in injecting a bit of lightheartedness into conversations that lift the dialog and keeps the pacing from getting stodgy. I appreciated that as a reader, and it was an excellent counterpoint to the dark political intrigue and backstabbing.
The engaging and detailed political plots, along with the humor and gorgeous worldbuilding, made this a treat to read. I look forward to tackling the next book in the series.
At first I was wary of a female narrator for what seems to be predominantly male POV characters.
Thankfully, that fear was misplaced. Sheila Dearden is a brilliant narrator with some great voices and excellent control of tempo and vocal inflections.
Her one weakness, as is the case with a great many narrators, is the inability to create believable voices of the opposite gender.
Also, as the story opened, I was wary of the sheer number of POV characters that were introduced right away. The first four chapters present us with four different characters, each in a different place and doing different things.
Thankfully, every character is unique and distinct and has their own voice, motivation and goals. There are plenty of awesome character moments and some shocking twists.
I want to talk about the prose and style. D. P. Wooliscroft has an awesomely engaging voice and style that can't help but draw you in. And quite apart from a significant portion of independently published books, the prose is skillfully written and free of errors.
Now, that said, at its heart this story is essentially the same medieval political struggle that I've read dozens of times. The same one that I grew tired of long ago.
I find myself wishing the side elements; the assassins, the demons, the thousand-year-old wizard, the bardic magic, even the curious history behind the dwarven juggernauts; had been much more central to the plot rather than the political machinations.
That was the one thing preventing this from being a 5-star read for me.
For all that though, the book was brilliantly written and has enough going on to keep me interested and entertained even through the plot that my mind kept trying to wander away from.
It is telling that even though the heart of the plots are similar, this book kept me far more engaged than Sanderson's Elantris or Warbreaker.
The ending. Well, I would have liked there to be some sort of hint of the conflict that comes just before the end (it feels a little contrived), but otherwise the end comes much as I expected it would.
There is one major twist at the end that caught me completely off guard and made all the rest worth it!
In spite of the main plot lacking anything amazing or ground breaking, there is enough going on with the characters, the world, and the demons, that I can't wait for the next one to come out in audio so I can dig into it!
"The people of this city have no balls! For hundreds of years, they've let a few rule them when they have the greater numbers. A chieftain on the plains of my home would be challenged and killed for being as useless as these kings and queens. Now, the people are growing balls. Finally."
Kingshold is a unique story that's more about a city, and an electoral process than it is any particular person. The story begins with a wizard named Jyuth who kills the current (very corrupt) monarchs. With the royal monarchs dead, the wizard decides to introduce the people of Kingshold to the idea of democracy in the hopes of bringing about a brighter, more independent future for all. Any head of house within the kingdom who can come up with enough gold pieces is allowed to vote, and there are plenty of people that want to become future lord protector.
There are a lot of things to like about this book. Kingshold features a wide range of characters with very different personalities, and the secondary characters were just as entertaining. Another thing that this book did really well was craft an entire story around a very politically driven situation. There's some love, family bonding, and coming of age stuff thrown in there too, but 90% of the story focuses on the complications of a city running it's first ever honest election.
My only complaint would be about some of the chosen lingo that was used. Alana is this strong, smart, independent character who plays a huge part in keeping the wizard informed and in helping with the election, but she also kicks boys in the "goolies" and compares people to skittles. There are also people that get the boots taken to them, which immediately made me laugh and think of Metalocalypse. Obviously this won't happen with everyone and the majority of people won't find the line funny like I did, but it felt worth mentioning.
But honestly all of that was pretty minor. The amount of characters can be a little overwhelming in the beginning and I definitely got confused a time or two, but by the end I had it pretty well figured out. The change over from a monarchy to a democracy isn't an easy one, yet D.P. Wooliscroft does a good job at covering all the bases and imagining how a change like that might go down. Despite the fact that I was occasionally bored by some of the politics and confused at first about who was who, I'm still curious and excited to see what might happen in the next book.
This review is a part of TBRindr initiated by Weatherwax Report. I received a copy of this book in exchange to an honest review.
Kingshold is a story about transition of monarchy to democracy in a fantasy kingdom of Edland. Jyuth is the founding father of Edland and advisor wizard to the kingdom. He becomes embittered over centuries with the constant cycle of corruption of the descendant of the people he chose as kings. After the recent murder of corrupt and sexually deranged King and Queen in the titular Kingshold, Jyuth tries something new: a democratic election for a new lord protector.
In this scenario, theoretically everyone can nominate themselves as a candidate. However, the catch is that only people who pay 1000 gold coins as refundable deposit to Jyuth and own property within certain radius of Kingshold can vote. As a result of these requirements, there are only about 140-150 predicted eligible voters. Things are getting interesting when common people from different guilds and trades start to pool their assets to have a say in the vote.
In the meantime, there’s a conspiracy brewing in the Kingshold court, the one that may involve foreign invasion and jeopardise the whole kingdom...
Medieval Setting and Diverse Cast On personal level, the medieval setting doesn’t work well for me. I’ve seen so many iterations of faux European medieval setting and this world is no exception. There are some twists here and there but it’s still fantasy medieval world in its core.
The anachronistic diction and naming convention aren’t really my preference either. Words like ‘okay,’ ‘protein,’ or ‘grenade’ constantly broke my immersion. The dialogue can also be cheesy at times. Furthermore, the turns of event also feel unnatural or forced for the sake of plot progression.
I’m not sure how to feel about Jyuth the wizard. He proclaims himself as the arbiter of the election process, but he’s too lenient with dirty plays and issues. He only takes actions when bad things happen to people he cares about. For the most part of the story I’m not quite sure on what has he been up to other than eating, getting angry at people, and meditating. There seems to be minimal election supervising and managing in his list of activities. And with the assassination attempts to the candidates, it seems that there is no proper law enforcement both from Kingshold city watch and Jyuth himself. This makes me wonder if law enforcement is a thing in Kingshold and Edland.
I can't tell if Jyuth is meant to be portrayed this way: incompetent and mercurial to some degree, or it’s an unseen character flaws from Woolliscroft’s part. It also bothers me that he can do anything without visible consequences.
Mareth, our bard protagonist, has potentials as an imperfect/flawed protagonist. I think he’s pretty balanced with his strengths and weaknesses. However I feel at times his growth and character progression doesn’t feel seamless enough. His motivation and drives keep changing throughout the story. He starts with curiosity to dig out the truth for the recent King and Queen assassination, but it quickly changes into campaign for Hoxteth (one of the candidates), and later the new lord protector campaign. I also feel that his past and quarrel with his father should've been explored further to give him more weight as the main character.
Hoskin, the lord chancellor, is an interesting character. He reminds me to Eddard Stark and Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire, he’s just a bookish man who wants a simple life back home. Unfortunately, his competence, conscience, and responsibilities demand him to do more. I wish I could’ve seen more of him beyond his chancellery role.
There is also the trio of mage/archer-warrior-rogue in the form of Motega, Florian, and Trypp. Unfortunately, I don’t feel they are interesting and relevant enough to the plot. I am pretty sure that they can be cut from the story altogether without altering main plot points. Their roles can be relatively covered by Dolph, Mareth’s assigned bodyguard.
In regards to strong female characters, this book offers an ensemble of them. From the major characters like the headstrong and fiery mage Neenahwi and the clever but insecure palace maid Alana, to minor characters like the innmistress Jules, the merchant’s wife Lady Grey, thief guild mistress Sharavin, and assassin guild mistress Lady Chalice. Each of them play significant role to various degrees.
A Study of American Politics While I’m not a US citizen or resident myself, I do feel that Kingshold is a study of the 2016 Presidential election. Xenophobia is one of main narratives used by some candidates and parties to rake in support and votes. There’s even a reference in the book on conquering other nations and making them paying for Kingshold walls. Powerful merchants and guilds are parallels to rich businessmen and big corporations who can control the vote with their inexhaustible resources.
While I find this exercise interesting, I am not a big fan to the notion that the better candidates for the lord protector can only come from merchant and noble classes. I do like the bigger theme of people power and mobility incited and organised by common people.
The political play has potentials, but it’s often abandoned for the sake of building up the main villain. Some candidates aren’t fleshed out enough, so by the time they are removed from their candidacy, the impacts feel weak. The voting process itself is a mess. There are no clear rules on what will happen to the cast votes if a specific candidate dies or becomes invalid. From a scene near the end of the book it seems that these votes still count. This results in a relatively unsatisfying payoff.
Conclusion Kingshold is a mixed bag for me. It starts up strong but the longer it goes the more fatigued I feel. And even then, some subplots don't get rewarding payoffs not to mention some intentional loose ends to build up the sequel. I reckon this book will work better with tighter editing by cutting some subplots, perhaps into 65%-80% of the original length.
The pacing feels unbalanced as at some places the plot feels dragging, but at other times, the problems seems to be solved quickly. There is one instance where Mareth uses his expertise as a bard to rouse the masses. This could be a powerful speech/song scene, but it is only described in one short paragraph.
Despite this, I feel Kingshold is still a pretty strong read. I will recommend this book for people who like medieval setting and its politics.
An intriguing debut with a unique premise and interesting characters
I picked up Kingshold because I was intrigued by the idea of a democracy emerging in a fantasy world. While I was ready for a heavy political plot, instead I found myself reading a book that was driven by it's characters.
Sure there are some political happenings going on, but these mostly serve as a device to bring together an interesting cast of characters who rally together to elect one of their own who will govern their city with the little guy in mind. From Mareth the Bard utilizing his oratory skills to rally the populace, to Sisters Alana and Petra who are an immense help with organizing the uniting the poorer districts of the city, Kingshold offers us some unique characters that are different from the typical Fantasy fare. At the same time, our group includes some more conventional character types that could even work great off on their own. Motega and his crew reminded me of Royce and Hadrian from Michael Sullivan's Riyria books, while Jyuth and Neenahwi add some magic to the cast as the Wizened old wizard prepares to leave the City he has helped mold for generations and leave behind his adopted daughter whom he has apprenticed and groomed to continue molding and shaping events to influence the future of the country.
While this book focuses on the election for new leadership in Kingshold, it has also setup potential for greater conflict in the surrounding world and I will be very interested to see how our band of characters move forward to deal with not just the outcome of the election, but also the brewing conflicts that surround their city.
Kinghold is a great tale that I'd recommend all fantasy fans to take a look at. With Demons, Dwarves, Wizards, a giant giant turtle with a pirate fortress on it's back, and Assassin's who are shrugged off as a perfectly legal part of the election process, this is much more than just a political story. Danger and conflict are weaved throughout a story of organizing a community to rally for the election of someone to represent the masses and not just the elite nobility.
Kingshold is available for your vote for the 2019 Epic Fantasy Fanatic EFFY awards. If you would be so good as to head over to https://epicfantasyfanatics.com/kings... and cast your vote, it would be greatly appreciated! Voting ends on July 14th.
12/18/18 Kingshold is part of PrimeReading for the next 90 days. That means if you are in the US and an Amazon Prime member then you read Kingshold for free! What are you waiting for?
Kingshold is now available! Happy book birthday to Kingshold. Super excited for this moment.
-- I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review --
I love stories about cities. A good city story will make you feel like you’ve not only visited its neighbourhoods but maybe also filled out a couple of rental applications. You feel like you’ve gotten to know the city, like you could walk down the street and know which corners to avoid or which hole in the wall has the best fish and chips. A good city story is going to have the setting as a central character, as a protagonist. So I was excited when I saw that D.P. Woolliscroft’s Kingshold was not only going to take place primarily within a city but that it would also feature the political machinations of an election held within its walls. Nothing gives a more complete picture of a city than the inner workings of its politics.
Kingshold begins with the figurative and literal death of the monarchy. It seems the King and Queen were up to no good and required an ousting. And to hear the court Wizard tell it, it’s not exactly an uncommon occurrence, so maybe it’s time for a change. Maybe it’s time for a little democracy. A plan is put into place so that anybody with a little bit of land and a pocket full of coin can voice their opinion on the next ruler. They do this by whispering their choice to a Pyxie which they are given upon payment of the fee.
This is a multi-POV book so we follow a plethora of characters in various aspects of city life in the weeks before the big election. Jyuth, the aforementioned wizard and man behind the throne. Mareth, a drunken layabout of a bard. Hoskins, the man in charge in the meantime. Neenahwi, a shape shifting sorceress. Oh, and the requisite thieves, rogues, servants, and narcissistic lords that fill out any and every fantasy cast.
At the centre of it all is Mareth. He’s a bit of a drunk, a bit of a cad, and, unfortunately, a bit of a bore. It’s his story at the focus of the narrative and most other characters come into his orbit at some point or another. He feels so much like the protagonist that I can’t help but think if at some point with this was a first person narrative or that it would have been better served as one. We follow Mareth as he does his bard thing in taverns, drinks to excess, becoming a propagandist for a election candidate, and eventually becoming a candidate himself. But it’s not quite enough to give him a personality. There are hints of a more interesting and inspiring man underneath but whenever Woolliscroft has an opportunity to show us he decides to tell us instead.
But we can’t blame Mareth’s for being a bit of a dullard when he lives in a city equally devoid of character. I was disappointed that Kingshold felt so much like other fantasy cities with its rich neighbourhoods, poor ghettos, and its neglected slums. It lacks the eccentricities and quirks that make cities memorable. I had been hoping for something closer to The Wire’s Baltimore or even Uncle Scrooge’s Duckburg but Kingshold feels like a prop instead of a real pace. There was no charm or menace or grit. The only standout feature is a The Lance, a large road which bisects the city and a road can only be so interesting.
The denizens of Kingshold fare a little better, mostly after a large number of the cast get together and become friends. It is by in large the most interesting part of the book. Once together there is an organic likability that appears as little differences start to emerge and characters begin to play off each other. They begin to feel like real people as the sense of friendship and camaraderie begins to shine through. Ironically, it is outside of these group meetings that the characters feel least like individuals. Consider the adventuring party of Motega, Trypp, and Florian (the aforementioned thieves and rogues) who have just returned to the city by sea. Other than their physical descriptions (respectively, piebald complexion, dark skinned, and...white, I guess? It’s never stated) they are essentially the same person. They sound so much alike that you could switch them around in any given scene without notice. It makes it all the more difficult to care about the fate of a city when I can’t even muster much enthusiasm for a member of the cast.
Normally, I can abide by one note characters (as a frequent mystery reader it’s not exactly uncommon) but there needs to something else to take up the slack. Initially I really liked the idea of the post-monarchy election plot. It’s a neat idea that I haven’t seen before and an interesting way to engage in political intrigue. Or it would have been. But the most compelling thing Woolliscroft does with the idea is to throw some murder at it. And while a killer loose in Kingshold should perk up the plot a bit it fails to rise above plot device. Since we never actually get to know any of the candidates it’s difficult to care when they die. There’s no tension or suspense to the events; they just happen. It’s a plot that in more experienced hands could have been really affecting but here it just lies flat.
There are several other plot points throughout the book. A fight for a demon’s gem, a D&D style side quest to help some Dwarves, an exceedingly lean romantic subplot, and a final act action set piece that feels so out of place and pointless that it boggles the mind. I’m still trying to figure out if it actually had an effect on the plot. Or how serious I’m supposed to take something called a Draco-Turtle. But nothing feels quite as squandered as the Pyxies. I read this book almost completely on of the promise of using pocket demons to vote in an election. Visions of Gremlins and Darklings pestering and manipulating danced in my head. Obviously it isn’t fair to complain that something didn’t live up to my own baseless expectations but I just felt so let down that the Pyxies are almost non-existent in this story. They don’t really do anything that a slip of paper and a wooden box couldn’t do equally as well. They don’t even really talk until one pipes up at the very end and proceeds to call everything into question making you wonder what any of this was for in the first place.
Woolliscroft writes Kingshold in a simple and straightforward style but unfortunately stays just below a workmanlike level. He mostly gets the point across and there are no real grammar or spelling errors that stood out but there are mistakes that I think should have been weeded out by a more substantial editing process. Weird vocabulary choices like “partied”, “boyfriend”, “stogy”, and “weekend” which are jarring and call into question both setting and tone. Characters call each other “turds” and at one point the wise, possibly immortal wizard kingmaker uses the phrase “...a bonk from my trusty staff”. Bonk?! I’m really not sure what I am supposed to do with that. The story doesn’t feel like a comedy and while other reviewers have called it lighthearted I really don’t see it. There are moments of attempted levity and the characters are quick with a quip but there is a definite note of self seriousness that would prevent me from calling the book light or funny. But I don’t know if I would say it’s all that serious either. I mean, Draco-Turtle.
I do think there is potential here. The idea of a city struggling with a new form of government, the lengths some people will go to secure their own futures, and the ever present possibility that things won’t go your way are all fuel for a good story. But extraneous characters, lacklustre writing, and a go nowhere plot all come together to muddy what could have otherwise been a fine book. The election ends up exactly like you think, the characters don’t learn anything organically, and there is (maybe) a twist at the end but it’s not very clear and wouldn’t really matter anyway. I didn’t find much to like about this book and the few things that I thought would stand out didn’t manage to live up to my expectations. It’s not a book I would recommend to anybody but I highly suggest you look into some other reviews. This is but one opinion and it is by no means definitive.
3.5⭐️ Kingshold is a fun, light read with several POV’s, some cool magic, and decent world-building. Or should I say “City building” because the city of Kingshold is where most of the story takes place. This is a story of what happens when a monarchy is dissolved forcefully and an election is put forth to choose a new leader. The gallery of characters that find themselves in the middle of this shaky political climate include a serving girl, a bar owner, a wizard and his daughter, a bard, and a trio of adventurers/thieves. Needless to say, there’s a lot going on and some parts are paced well, some parts not so much. I enjoyed a scene fairly early on where the thieves are performing a job and also an early scene of the wizard’s adopted daughter Neenahwi. She’s a badass with some sweet abilities. Jyuth the wizard is a great character. A behind the scenes fixer who is equally amusing and menacing. Some characters didn’t do much for me. Mareth, the bard, for one. Ugh, bards. By about the midway point of the book it’s pretty apparent who we are supposed to root for and against. To be honest, character development took a back seat to number of characters and events/plot.
I did enjoy a twist or two that the author included in the end and there are a few questions left unanswered that I hope get addressed as the series continues. I will definitely check out Tales of Kingshold as well as book two. All in all, Kingshold is debut with a lot of potential. I’m interested to see where Dave Woolliscroft takes us in The Wildfire Cycle.
Firstly I should talk about my expectations going in. I expected to be political fantasy about power struggle between different factions competing in the elections with a darker tone. Actually it's a fun adventure book, where the election is just a backdrop, rather than focus of the book. Protagonist are more or less good guys, who team up against the unpopular general, who is the main contender to win the elections.
Protagonists are fun to read about (there is 5 of them) and because of that I liked the book. My favourite character was Hoskin - a long serving chancellor, who had to manage the country in the interim between change of goverment. I enjoyed his sarcastic humour and no-fucks-given attitude.
On the other hand I prefer my stories painted in shades of grey and I would've liked if the book was more nuanced and there were more viable candidates. The book is not just black and white, but it's clear who the good side and the bad side is and that makes story somewhat predictable. But still author managed to surprise me with one event towards the end and proved that his characters aren't safe. The worldbuilding is imaginative I wouldn't mind exploring more of this world.
Jyuth is an ancient wizard who founded the Kingdom of Edland and put the butt of the first king on the throne in Kingshold. Over the great span of years he’s had to return to kill a corrupt king and put a new one in place, so this time is no different. Except this king and queen are exceptionally corrupt and perverse and have left no heirs to inherit the throne. So, a weary Jyuth declares that there will be no more kings. There will instead be a Lord Protector and anyone can run for the position. However, only those with 1000 gold crowns can vote. This is an obvious advantage to the nobility of Edland and the mass of poor citizens don’t like it. When Mareth, a middle-aged drunken bard who happens to be a third son of a nobel, is put forth as a candidate the people rally behind him. But is it enough?
What an epic fantasy! Mareth isn’t the only one who can tell a good tale. The author really drops the reader right into this story and then takes off running. There are several points of view that bring it all together and it is enthralling. I like the world and the characters are awesome. The whole election thing is interesting, too. But there are also sinister forces at work and things aren’t always as they seem. Intriguing! While this story has a conclusion there is obviously more about this world that needs told. Things are brewing, people! I’m looking forward to more stories about Edland, Kingshold, and the characters I’ve come to care about. May they all survive what’s coming.