In the 5 years since the great war, the world has changed. Now, a reluctant Larin must tear himself away from his family to fulfill his sworn promise: To find the last Carver on earth and beg for release of the ancient race an ignorant humanity calls "demons".
But across the Linesai mountains, a treacherous and spiteful king has different plans. Kemharak’s enclave is threatened, old alliances are sundered, and nothing is as it was. Yet while the Usurper looms like a dark shadow over the Created Ones, in order to save his people Kemharak must battle internal divisions every bit as dangerous as ungrateful human emperors.
And in the south empire, Larin’s family sits in the eye of the storm, as rebellion whips into gale force around them. With death on his heels, Larin will flee across the south continent accompanied by his lethal uncle, a misfit historian, and a strange, selfish girl who speaks only truth. It is a journey that will take him to the extremes of power and depravity, into the bizarre cultures of the eastern continent, and the fusing of two worlds. For in this new godless age, Larin and his companions must begin to answer the questions that have mystified humanity from day one: Who are the indigen, and how did humanity come to this place?
I actually hadn’t read the previous books in the series, but found to this book’s credit that I could still follow along and figure things out from context. Rodgers does an amazing job leading you into his world and peppering in the details that let you know what has happened, so it all reads very smoothly.
And what a world! While I felt like this book had some wonderful callbacks to classic epic fantasy (Raymond Feist’s Riftwar Saga comes to mind), it also brings some fresh new delights. The indigen flora and fauna are endlessly fascinating. Weird, but so well-drawn that they never felt alienating to me as a reader. The story moves swiftly, and although there is a lot of fleeing going on (hence the title), there’s still downtime for the characters to grow personally, as well as form what is clear will be lifelong bonds. And if you like world politicking, there’s plenty of that for you here too. An extremely engaging read.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Helios, who will forever be my favorite. There ought to be an entire generation of pets named after this endearing critter.
If you like: -badass women who earn their arrogance -very cool magic -weird, almost alien creatures whom you nonetheless feel for -a vast, rich world that surprises and delights at every turn -intricate politics -a story that is difficult to put down -the sweetest of magical animal companions
So five years have passed since the war, and Larin & Onie just want to live in peace rather than go back to the hell they’ve been through. But so much trouble has been brewing; a usurper king, poor governance, old rivalries, intolerance. Things are coming to a head ready or not, and Larin must set off on another epic journey with a cast of truly odd allies. Some heroes are revealed and others are forged along the way. I absolutely love these characters, including the enemies. I love Kemharak in particular and there’s much more of him in here. All the dynamic tensions, compelling style, and shining description of the other books are here too, along with inventive new details of the world and its peoples. It’s such fun getting inside Larin’s head and there are some big surprises in there. Trigger warning: child abuse, but it’s brief.
The third installment of the Spellgiver series (an unfortunately generic appellation that leave the causal book browser clueless as the what's on offer: Potterisms? Teenaged witchery? "Spellgiver" just doesn't suggest the masterful world-building and compelling characters of this sprawling, addictive epic, and I have to find SOMETHING to carp about, right?), TO FLEE A KING manages to up the ante on the already impressive hand that writer Rodgers has laid on the table in the first two installments.
High grades all around: intricate but nimble plotting, high quality prose and a high fun quotient, all in service of a three-dimensional cast you'll get to know and love (or hate) better than many of your relatives.
In no particular order there's:
A socially awkward, bug-eyed teenaged wallflower, who blurts out terrible truths at the most inappropriate moments, and whose true depths remain to be plumbed in Book Four.
A know-it-all a-hole, all the more obnoxious because he actually DOES know it all. A near-death experience realistically morphs him into a more sympathetic character, the change presented not as two sides of a coin, but rather different facets of a brilliant, conflicted personality.
An aging warrior, reaching for peaks he thought long past him, battling to both redeem his own bloody sins and help forge a future that he can barely imagine.
A hero, haunted by the consciousness of a deadly enemy he's destroyed/absorbed, even while realizing he must embrace that enemy to survive the awful gauntlet before him.
A bug-like warlord, who struggles to both understand and ally himself with the humans he's always hated, while wrangling with those among his own people who consider this path a treasonous heresy.
And many more. . .
Rodgers also serves up:
Backstabbing scheming and dirty politics among various "elites," contending for power among themselves, almost as viciously as they battle the Bigger Enemy.
Lovecraftian horrors from the deep, and a weird, wondrous animal companion, part Disney, part Dali.
A brutal war for extinction stakes, where the best laid plans never survive contact with the enemy, where rumors and the fog of war play as big a part in battle as strategic brilliance. And Rodgers never flinches away from the butcher's bill, or the unhealed wounds on the psyches of the combatants.
A cadre of teleporting ninja-like assassins; vomiting as a defense against magic; self-mutilation as a power-focusing necessity, and a soul-risking fight/fu** to the finish with an undying, demon sex bomb.
And that's just chapter one!
Kidding. . .
But not when I say should run to yer nearest bookstore for the wild and wondrous ride that is TO FLEE A KING.
I stayed up late many nights reading this one! I really enjoyed the first two books of the Spellgiver series, but this was the best so far. The author's imagination is just incredible with original cultures, creatures and civilizations. Definitely worth reading this series. I am looking forward to the next book.