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Empire of the Wolf #1

The Justice of Kings

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The Justice of Kings, the first in a new epic fantasy trilogy, follows the tale of Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an Emperor’s Justice – a detective, judge and executioner all in one. As he unravels a web of secrets and lies, Vonvalt discovers a plot that might destroy his order once and for all – and bring down the entire Empire.

As an Emperor's Justice, Sir Konrad Vonvalt always has the last word. His duty is to uphold the law of the empire using whatever tools he has at his disposal: whether it's his blade, the arcane secrets passed down from Justice to Justice, or his wealth of knowledge of the laws of the empire. But usually his reputation as one of the most revered—and hated—Justices is enough to get most any job done.

When Vonvalt investigates the murder of a noblewoman, he finds his authority being challenged like never before. As the simple case becomes more complex and convoluted, he begins to pull at the threads that unravel a conspiracy that could see an end to all Justices, and a beginning to lawless chaos across the empire. 

496 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 22, 2022

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About the author

Richard Swan

12 books455 followers
Richard Swan is a Sunday Times bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction.

He was born in North Yorkshire, and, thanks to a childhood spent on RAF bases in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, now has an unhealthy interest in fighter jets.

In 2010 he moved to London, where he spent the better part of ten years litigating multi-million pound commercial disputes. He now lives in Sydney with his wonderful wife, Sophie, their two very loud sons, and a very large container of sunscreen.

For updates follow him at stonetemplelibrary.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,064 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
664 reviews41.2k followers
September 7, 2022
ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review.

4.5/5 stars

The Justice of Kings was totally addictive. A truly riveting tale about law, war, morality, and justice.

“Empires are built and maintained with words. Swords are a mere precedent to the quill.”

Pitched as Judge Dredd meet The Witcher, The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan went into my TBR pile after Orbit Books sent a limited ARC to me. Judging from the premise, I had a feeling that I would be reminded of reading War for the Rose Throne series by Peter McLean, and I’m not mistaken on this. Empire of the Wolf isn’t a gangster fantasy series, but there’s still a lot of things to love here if you loved War for the Rose Throne. Honestly speaking, though, although I’ve been interested in reading The Justice of Kings for a while, it didn’t jump to the top of my TBR pile until I saw the stunning cover art done by Martina Fackova. I pre-ordered the novel immediately after I heard Martina Fackova will be doing the cover art, and I’m not disappointed. Both the artist and designer—Lauren Panepinto—did a wonderful job on the cover art, but can the book live up to it? Yes, it can.

“The Autun makes no distinction between a man and a woman in legal matters. ‘All may be judged by the law, so all may uphold it.’”

No man is above the law. This is one of the main themes of the novel, and the story follows Sir Konrad Vonvalt, the most feared Justice from the Order of Justices who stands in the way of chaos in The Empire of the Wolf. Rebellion, heretics, and powerful patricians challenge the power of the imperial throne, and Konrad Vonvalt determines to uphold the law by way of his sharp mind, arcane powers, and skill as a swordsman. But he’s not alone on his missions. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is accompanied by Helena Sedanka—an orphan, his clerk, and protégé. When the pair investigate the murder of a provincial aristocrat, they unearth a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of Imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt must make a choice: will he abandon the laws he's sworn to uphold in order to protect the empire?

“You cannot kill another human being and fail to be affected by it, even if they are an enemy.”

The official premise may lead you into thinking that this is Justice Konrad Vonvalt’s story, and in a way, it is true. However, Vonvalt is not the main POV character; he doesn’t even have any POV chapter. The entire story in The Justice of Kings is told through the first-person perspective of Helena Sedanka. We’re reading Helena’s writing and recount of the past. This storytelling style is akin to reading Fitz’s narration in The Farseer trilogy mixed with Akil’s narration in The Bloodsounder’s Arc trilogy by Jeff Salyards; more similar to the latter. In The Bloodsounder’s Arc, we follow the tale of Akil as he writes his journey as he follows Braylar Killcoin. In The Justice of Kings, we’re reading Helena Sedanka’s intertwining lives with Konrad Vonvalt and many other individuals. The murder mystery element in a fantasy world filled with great character development, plus the thought-provoking discussions regarding law—whether it’s better to absolutely uphold the law or neglect it—and the decline in morality made The Justice of Kings a compelling read.

“Few things in life can be guaranteed with greater certainty than the incredible contrivances men will go to generate money from nothing at all.”—PHILOSOPHER AND JURIST FRANCIS GERECHT

Konrad Vonvalt’s intimidating presence and actions will likely stay with readers. But I have to give the praises towards using Helena Sedanka as the main narrator. I was slightly worried about this initially. All the premises and advertisements for The Justice of Kings so far pointed towards Vonvalt, and I wasn’t sure Helena could win my expectations of wanting the story to be told from Vonvalt’s POV chapters; I won’t lie, I even feel tricked. However, it all worked out for the better. After reading The Justice of Kings, I’m quite confident that having Helena as the main narrator actually formed a superior narrative, and now I’m not so sure the novel would be as strong if it’s told through Vonvalt’s narration. Also, I’ve mentioned Vonvalt and Helena constantly in this review so far, but there’s another important character: Dubine Bressinger. The trio and dynamic between Vonvalt, Helena, and Bressinger were simply colorful and engaging. I never felt bored reading their interactions with each other; we get to gradually witness the background and personality of the trio. And once again, the three of them gave a lot of food for thoughts regarding justice and laws; I loved it.

“I was a soldier in the Reichskrieg, Helena… I have seen what the world is like without the rules.”

It’s worth noting that the world-building in The Justice of Kings aren’t full of magic or fantastical creatures. The world in The Empire of the Wolf felt similar to our own, and Vonvalt does have two magickal abilities on his arsenal, but that’s about it. A few other magical abilities were displayed, but they’re not focused upon, at least for this book, anyway; the sequels might have more magical usage. But I do think the two soft-magic frequently exhibited in this novel was enough to give variety to the way the plot plays out. First, there’s The Emperor's Voice, which is more or less the ability to command people to tell you the truth; a bit similar Lelouch's Geass from Code Geass if you’re familiar with the anime. The second one is the power of necromancy; this isn’t resurrection per se, but Vonvalt and other Justices could use this power to speak with the dead. Seeing how Swan utilized these two powers in Helena and Vonvalt’s investigations was intriguing to me, and I really loved how it’s emphasized that these powers can’t be used carelessly. Most of the time, it is shown that being smart tends to be more helpful and safe than using Justice’s magical powers.

“’The wise man arms himself with knowledge before a sword.’”

As you can probably guess, having access to these types of special powers blurs the line between good and bad with ease. No matter the intention, no matter how good a person is, owning too much power will transform a person completely. I loved reading how Swan combined all the elements in his book to continuously discuss this topic and theme, both subtly and explicitly. Books that inflict “one more chapter syndrome” on me are books I enjoy reading; The Justice of Kings achieved that relatively fast. It did take me about a quarter of the book to feel fully immersed in, but everything after that felt like I flew through the book with haste. I am also a fan of epigraphs in fantasy novels; authors can use this space for multiple purposes such as creating mysteries, giving revelations, world-building exploration, or maybe putting philosophical passages. And the latter one is dominant in The Justice of Kings; here’s a few more of my favorites:

“Power does things to a man’s mind. It unlocks his baser instincts which the process of civilization has before occluded. Powerful men are closer in mind to wild beasts than they are to their supposed human inferiors.”—SIR WILLIAM THE HONEST

“Even the eyes of the owl do not catch everything.”—OLD SOVAN PROVERB

“It is impossible to impress upon a man the severity of a situation until the point of its remedy is long past. ‘Tis something to do with the nature of a human being, that ingrained idiocy. The gods must shake their heads at us in disbelief.”—JUSTICE SOPHIA JURAS

In comparison, I don’t think I’ve read many fantasy novels where the persons of authority are the main characters; usually, it’s the other way around, especially in stories revolving around rebellion. Should the law be upheld completely, Or should it be abolished? What kind of rules should be set upon for society to truly work together? Is that even possible? Battle scenes are indeed rare in The Justice of Kings, but the grey morality and Vonvalt’s magickal applications were sufficient to make sure that the narrative remains captivating to read. This novel is still three months away from being published, 2022 isn’t even here yet, and The Justice of Kings has become one of my favorite reads of the year. Life has been super busy for me the past few weeks, and finding the time to read has been a challenge on its own. The Justice of Kings, however, felt effortless to read, an exhilarating first book of a series, and I definitely look forward to reading the sequel. Once again, and as expected, Orbit Books has landed a gem in both the cover art and story department.

“Justice is not vengeance, and vengeance is not justice. But the two often overlap. The state is as capable of vengeance as any individual, for what is the state if not the people that comprise us?”—SIR RANDALL KORMONDOLT

Official release date: 22nd February 2022 (US) & 24th February 2022 (UK)

You can pre-order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Blackwells (Free International shipping)

The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions | I also have a Booktube channel

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!

My Patrons: Alfred, Andrew, Annabeth, Ben, Blaise, Diana, Dylan, Edward, Element, Ellen, Gary, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Jennifer, Joie, Luis, Lufi, Melinda, Meryl, Mike, Miracle, Neeraja, Nicholas, Oliver, ReignBro, Samuel, Sarah, Sarah, Scott, Shaad, Xero, Wendy, Wick, Zoe.
Profile Image for William Gwynne.
344 reviews1,328 followers
May 1, 2022
My 450th read logged on Goodreads!

The Justice of Kings is a very accomplished and engaging debut by Richard Swan, who has crafted a core cast of fantastic characters with an engaging plot. The tension builds and builds and ends in a brilliant crescendo of a culmination that is both shocking and satisfying.

I would say that this took me about a 100 pages to get into, but beyond that this tale got better and better. Richard Swan expertly dangles clues to the mysteries our central characters are trying to unearth, whilst also gradually revealing integral aspects about the past of our initially enigmatic and similarly mysterious characters, particularly with our main three figures.

Whilst I wanted a bit more depth to our surrounding cast, the main three characters were developed very effectively, and I look forward to accompanying them when the future instalments are released.

Full Review to Come
Profile Image for Nick Borrelli.
359 reviews321 followers
May 31, 2022
Original review posted on my blog Out of This World SFF:

It's always the books that I loved the most that are the most difficult to review. I know that's not unique to many reviewers, but this is indeed going to be challenging as I enjoyed this story on a level that really makes it hard to articulate. There are so many reasons to pick up this book and catapult it to the very top of your TBR. Here are just some of them...

The very first thing that surprised me about this book is that the main character Vonvalt's story isn't told through his eyes or the author's via third person for that matter. Rather it's quite fascinatingly told in the first person through the narration of another character Helena, who serves as Justice Vonvalt's clerk. She is a pretty major character in her own right, but getting to experience Vonvalt's exploits through her and to see how it affects her journey as well was quite interesting. It also gave the story an added dimension that made it so much more enjoyable in my opinion.

As we get to know these people better along with some others, the main plot of the story begins to take shape. Vonvalt has been charged by the emperor to investigate reports of a witch practicing an outlawed form of religion called Draedism. But it soon becomes clear that things are much more complicated than a simple task of meting out the emperor's justice and cleaning up a few fringe elements operating just outside the Empire's reach. Then when a murder is discovered that may have a connection to all of this, Vonvalt and Helena find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy that could threaten to destroy the empire and its loyalists for good.

Vonvalt is a character who believes that no matter what, the law is paramount and nobody is above it. So much so that he often views everything through this myopic lens, to the exclusion of any other considerations. So it was really fascinating to see his beliefs challenged at times and how he struggled to reconcile the reality of what was going on around him with what had been ingrained in him from his earliest years as a Justice of the Empire. Helena's loyalty to Vonvalt (for reasons you will find out) is a recurring theme and she feels a certain obligation to protect him, yet doesn't always approve of his methods. There's also a hint of a possible romantic attachment between them that further complicates their relationship. I was entranced by their interactions from the very first page and Richard Swan breathes so much life into them that I felt like I knew them intimately.

Something that really made this a next level read for me was the astounding magic system and how it is integral to the enforcement of the laws of the Empire. Only Justices of the empire are empowered with the special knowledge to perform certain magic and it is what separates them from the faith-based Templars. Among these powers is the ability for a Justice to speak to the dead by traveling to another plane where the spirit resides. This comes in very handy when prying for information from someone you accidentally ran through with your sword. It does come with its risks however, because if not done carefully things can bleed into the real world that are quite vile and nasty to say the least. But that's just one of the many cool magic elements in this book. There's so much jaw-dropping sorcery that you'll just have to read it to see what I'm talking about.

Finally, what really sent me over the moon with this book was the incredibly intense intrigue and hateful conflict between the Empire's servants and the religious faction on the opposing side. That central conflict is truly what made this a magnificent read that I couldn't put down. The Justices on one side believe in abiding by the laws of man while those faithful to the Neman religion believe that all laws spring from her and her alone. So you can see where something has to give here, yeah? That tension carries on throughout this mesmerizing story and made for some truly heart-pounding moments for sure.

There aren't many books that can make me totally obsessed quite like I was with THE JUSTICE OF KINGS. This is a book that demands that you read it to the exclusion of all outside distractions. So much darkness, grit, intrigue, conspiracy, action, drama, crazy magic, I mean...not a lot compares to this reading experience. I was sad to have it all end but also exhilarated at the prospect of getting to find out how this tale continues and ultimately concludes. I'm sure that Richard Swan will deliver on the goods, as he already has beautifully with this epic first entry in the Empire of the Wolf series. THE JUSTICE OF KINGS is one of the very best, if not THE BEST debut fantasies I have ever read.
Profile Image for Allen Walker.
137 reviews1,264 followers
January 6, 2022
Full review here: https://youtu.be/TCsWHx3rfqw

Holy crap, I loved this book.

Thanks to Orbit for an ARC in exchange for an honest review, the entirety of which will be up soon.

Pre-order this book immediately.
Profile Image for Library of a Viking.
143 reviews2,102 followers
April 29, 2022
I couldn't stop turning the pages!

I knew I had to pick up this book when I read the premise. My favourite parts of fantasy books are always the political manoeuvring, strategising, characters and themes. Although I enjoy an epic battle scene occasionally, I am more interested in the conflict behind the battle! The Justice of Kings barely has any battle scenes but was still able to get my heart racing!

The Justice of Kings follows Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an Emperor's Justice, as he is investigating a murder of a noblewoman. As Vonvalt starts to investigate the murder, Vonvalt starts to unravel a conspiracy that could see the end of the empire.

While Vonvalt is the main character in The Justice of Kings, the story is told from the point of view of Helena Sedenka, his clerk. As the reader is reading Helena's recount of what happened, the reader knows that Helena survives the events as she is an old lady telling the tale. Having the story told through Helena's eyes worked incredibly well!

While The Justice of Kings initially feels like a fantasy/thriller book, the story gradually integrates other fantasy elements, such as magic, lore and battle scenes. I found the story to be utterly compelling! Richard Swann is able to get the reader intrigued in the murder early on. Moreover, the tension slowly increases throughout the story leading to a memorable climax. I was impressed by Swann's ability to craft a complex story, with many different threads intertwining, while simultaneously helping the reader follow and understand the story.

Swann's character work also deserves high praise! Vonvalt is an utterly compelling and complex character. It was fascinating to observe how Vonvalt slowly changes throughout the story. The other two main characters, Helena and Bressinger, are exciting and engaging. I loved following this trio as they slowly unpacked this conspiracy.

The Justice of Kings commentary on law and traditions makes The Justice of Kings stand out. This story demonstrates that values and ideals can only survive if people see a reason to believe in them. If a large group rejects a nation's principles, the government will fall. The Justice of Kings also made me realise the importance of not taking essential ideals, such as human rights, for granted.

So who is this book for? If you enjoy commentary on ideals and values, first-person stories, compelling characters and a thriller/fantasy story, then you should pick up this book! The Justice of Kings is an impressive debut, and I can't wait for the sequel to be published

4.5 / 5 stars

Thanks to my Patreon's Erin, DenTheArtair, Blake and Mel!
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,026 reviews2,809 followers
March 10, 2022
4.0 Stars
This is easily one of the strongest fantasy debut I have read in quite a while. Highly recommend!

I really liked the prose, which were filled with detail while still remaining accessible to the reader. The choice to tell the story from the perspective of the clerk (rather than the Justice) was excellent. Helena was a very likeable and relatable young woman. In contrast, the perspective choice allowed the Justice to remain more mysterious. 

I have a preference for non-traditional fantasy so I was pleased how well this European centric story worked for me. The magic was compelling. The worldbuilding was intricate without feeling cumbersome. The story had a slower start, but around the halfway point the plot really picked up and I was hooked! I can't wait to see where the second book goes.

I would highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a new epic fantasy story. I will absolutely be continuing on with the trilogy. 

Disclaimer I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Orbit Books
Profile Image for La Crosse County Library.
550 reviews132 followers
November 7, 2022
4.5 stars (rounded-up)

He is judge, jury, and executioner. He is Sir Konrad Vonvalt, who strikes fear into the hearts of all with mysterious powers.

I won’t lie, the premise had me hooked from the start. I had this on my TBR list from various blogs and even Goodreads lists as an anticipated fantasy debut for 2022.

The synopsis does a good job of painting a glorious picture of Konrad, who will be our main character, right? Well, that isn’t really the case.

The story instead follows Helena, who is apprenticed to Sir Konrad, and we see the story through her eyes alone.

We follow her, Konrad, and Bressinger (an old friend of Konrad’s who is now employed by him) as they fulfill all of the duties expected of being a Magistrate of the Emperor, including dealing with heathens and religious zealots.

A murder case brings the party to a bustling town where underneath the calm exterior lies something that could cause an upheaval for the Empire and Sir Konrad himself. Our party must navigate the case delicately before political strife rumored to be at the center of the Empire can interfere.

World settings based on the Roman Empire seem popular for debut fantasy books in the last few years. The empire in this book felt more of a cross between the Ancient Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, since it contained aspects of both.

This is the third book I have read this year that uses the conflict between religious leaders wanting to usurp control over the Empire opposed to mages or other power users. The magic used in the book was only teased, but it felt unique in its own right.

The religion of the empire reminded me of Judaism and early Christianity in how some books would borrow stories and characters from religions in the surrounding areas (like Samson and other parables, as well as naming demons after Sumerian deities).

I would say that is where the similarities end, as the religion was a unique beast of its own. It consumed religions of conquered kingdoms wholly and had numerous gods and creatures as a part of its mythos. Supernatural creatures existed such as a demon in another plane and a clan of people known as wolf men mentioned in the book.

The characters in the novel were fleshed out especially considering the novel only followed one point of view. Helena was a complex character fueled by her tragic past and aspirations for a better future for herself.

The reader gets to follow her journey as she develops in the face of harsh realities. My slight gripe with Helena is how at times she seemed naïve and squeamish, considering she was a war orphan.

The relationships between characters really shined through the pages, especially Helena’s relationship with Konrad as she struggled to define it. The act of making Helena the point of view we follow allowed the author to slowly reveal parts of Konrad’s history while still keeping him mysterious and powerful.

The novel was written well, especially for a debut novel. I could feel the conflict rising that continually built up my anticipation. The book elicited different emotions throughout due to the engaging writing. Different events and plot lines that didn’t seem connected at first were brought together, and a mystery was at the bottom of it all.

The plot was dark without getting too dark like other stories tend to do in the grimdark genre. The ending of the book hinted at exciting things to come in the series.

I liked this book and didn’t really have anything negative to say, except maybe with the synopsis. Konrad would have been great to follow as the main character, since the synopsis made it seem like he was the protagonist. I understand in the end why he wasn’t the main character though.

I ended up really enjoying this book. I thought the entry was a great debut, and a great start of a series. It was mainly a fantasy book with mixes of a mystery thrown into the plot that set up future books to come.

I would recommend this book to fantasy fans and especially those who are fans of grimdark fantasy.

Find this book and other titles within our catalog.
Profile Image for John Mauro.
Author 4 books323 followers
January 22, 2023
Believe the hype. The Justice of Kings is an absolutely stellar debut from Richard Swan.

The Justice of Kings reads like a grimdark version of Umberto Eco's classic, The Name of the Rose. The novel follows Sir Konrad Vonvalt, the most feared Justice of the Empire of the Wolf, as he investigates the murder of a noblewoman. In addition to his keen intellect, Vonvalt has two arcane powers: the Voice of the Emperor (think Dune) and a limited power of necromancy. I particularly enjoyed the nuanced use of necromancy in this book.

The narrator of The Justice of Kings is Vonvalt's trusted law clerk, the young Helena Sedanka. I love how Helena's role evolves throughout the book. For the first few chapters, it's hard to tell who the narrator is at all. She acts like a passive observer, recounting the tale of Vonvalt. Then gradually she comes to the forefront of the story and becomes the main driving force of the action. The evolution of Helena's character is done brilliantly.

The Justice of Kings reveals itself to be much more than a murder mystery as new layers of the story emerge. I also enjoyed the medieval German-inspired fantasy setting of the Empire of the Wolf, which is the perfect backdrop for this dark tale.

I wholeheartedly recommend this debut novel for all fantasy lovers and for fans of The Name of the Rose.
Profile Image for Overhaul.
230 reviews554 followers
February 17, 2023
"Nadie está por encima de la ley"

El Imperio del Lobo hierve a fuego lento por los disturbios. Rebeldes, herejes y patricios poderosos desafían el poder del trono imperial.

Solo la Orden de los Jueces se interpone en el camino del caos. Sir Konrad Vonvalt representa la justicia más temida por todos, defendiendo la Ley gracias a su mente aguda, sus poderes arcanos y su habilidad como espadachín. A su lado se encuentra Helena Sedanka, su talentosa protegida, una huérfana de las guerras que forjaron el Imperio.

Cuando ambos investigan el asesinato de un noble en una provincia remota, descubren una conspiración que se extiende hasta lo más elevado de la sociedad imperial. Los peligros aumentan a cada paso que emprenden; Vonvalt y Helena deberán tomar una decisión: ¿Abandonarán las leyes que han jurado respetar para proteger el Imperio?..

"La Justicia de los Reyes" es un debut muy tentador al que le había echado el ojo nada más se publicó. Con la alegría de que la gran editorial Gamon nos la iba a traer traducida.

Así que he esperado y ha merecido muchísimo la pena, esta editorial a excepción de un libro ha triunfado completamente conmigo. Y algo que se agradece es que inician sagas pero las van terminado. Este año cierran dos.

Un logrado y adictivo libro de Richard Swan, un autor que ha creado un muy interesante elenco de personajes y un mundo bien creado con una trama atractiva.

La tensión va creciendo y crece a ritmo pausado pero no aburrido y termina en un crescendo inteligente hacia una culminación satisfactoria que deja su marca.

Si bien es cierto que a la historia le llevan unas 80 páginas en meterse en materia es un recorrido muy bueno.

No son todo rosas ya que quiero expresar dos partes a tener en muy cuenta que quizás os interesen.

La primera será sólo para algunos lectores y es que es una historia que se va cociendo a fuego lento, la limitada acción está contada al igual que la magia, aparece, sí. Es lento.

La segunda es que esto es un inicio de saga, y deja un final abierto.

Para mi como podéis ver por el resultado y mis palabras, ninguna de las dos cosas ha supuesto un problema, es un thriller de fantasía a fuego lento, con los ingredientes precisos para ser una lectura de 5 estrellas.

Y bueno, no me arrepiento de leerlo. Quiero leer el segundo, sí, pero no me ha dejado como otras sagas que lo necesito. No es de esos.

Swan nos va ofreciendo pequeñas pistas sobre los misterios que nuestros personajes centrales están tratando de desenterrar, revelando a su vez algunos aspectos sobre el pasado de dichos personajes que empiezan siendo enigmáticos.

Vonvalt es el personaje principal de "La justicia de los reyes", pero la historia se cuenta desde el punto de vista de Helena, su ayudante.

A medida que el lector lee el relato de Helena sobre lo que sucedió, el lector sabe que Helena sobrevive a los hechos, ya que es una anciana cuando cuenta la historia.

La historia contada a través de los ojos y los pensamientos de Helena funcionó muy bien.

"La justicia de los reyes" inicialmente se siente como un libro de fantasía y suspense, pero la trama integra gradualmente otros elementos de fantasía, como es la magia, la tradición y las escenas de batalla. Cómo dije, en una contenida medida.

Una buena capacidad a la hora de intrigar al lector en el asesinato desde el principio.

La tensión generada aumenta lentamente a lo largo de la historia y conduce a un clímax final muy satisfactorio con hilos diferentes entrelazados

Editorial Gamon, una vez más, bravo..✍️🎩
Profile Image for Nils | nilsreviewsit.
309 reviews458 followers
December 14, 2021
4.5 Stars

The Justice of Kings is the fantastic debut novel by Richard Swan and marks the first book in the Empire of the Wolf trilogy. This is a book which surprised me in many ways, most predominantly we are led to believe the narrator of this tale would be Konrad Vonvalt, the Emperor’s Justice, yet it is not. Helena Sedanka is our narrator, and she gives us a first person account of all that happened during the periods she spent as a clerk accompanying Vonvalt on his duties throughout the Empire.

By no means was I disappointed by this, in fact this novel truly shines because Swan creates such a compelling narrative voice through Helena. The Justice of Kings is an addictive fantasy Sherlock Holmes-esque tale, with eerie touches of the supernatural, and a thought-provoking reflection on justice, vengeance and morality.

That’s not to say that Sir Konrad Vonvalt is not at the forefront of this story because he most certainly is, but it is more to say that we see his character through the critical eye of Helena as she chronicles their journey and her own adolescence. The narrative begins with Helena, Vonvalt, the former Legion soldier Bressinger and a priest called Calver, travelling to the village of Rill, where it is rumoured a witch of the outlawed Draedist religion resides. We learn that Sir Vonvalt is the Emperor’s Justice, granted with the authority to be a detective, judge and executioner for any crime committed against the Emperor’s rule. Not only is he granted authority, but he has the power of The Emperor’s Voice, which I’ll discuss later on. Yet even with such power, Vonvalt is a fair man, a man who will give people a chance to right their wrongs before dealing out a harsh sentence. Much to the dislike of Calver, a zealot, who believes any religion practised other than the Nema Creed is punishable by death without leniency, thus sparking an immense conflict between him and Vonvalt.

What follows from then is a journey to Galen’s Vale where Vonvalt, Helena and Bressinger take on an investigation into the murder of a noblewoman, and furthermore where Konrad Vonvalt consequently finds his authority doesn’t quite hold the ultimate sway it once had. You see, this murder may take place in one close-knit setting but as the novel progresses we discover it has far bigger implications throughout the Sovan Empire.

I immediately became immersed and hooked by Helena’s weary, sombre and often regretful tone of narration. Helena is writing these accounts as her older self; she’s a character looking back on her ordeals offering much insight into their mistakes, which I have to say is my favourite kind of narration. This is why I think Swan made the perfect choice, Helena can look at Vonvalt from an outsider’s perspective, she can judge his decisions and in turn we can judge him too without being biased because we only see his deeds through his eyes and his sense of righteousness. Swan uses well-executed foreshadowing throughout, which continuously hints at darker times to come and kept me anticipating what lay ahead for all our characters.

“There was something sad about his itinerant life, devoid as it was of the love of a good woman and a house to call a home. The longer I was exposed to it, the more I wanted to be free of it. Vonvalt might have been wealthy and privileged, but neither seemed to bring him much joy.”

Being a Justice of the Emperor means that Vonvalt holds arcane powers and secrets passed down through the Order of Justices. Every Justice has their own unique abilities and our Justice has the ability to use the Emperor’s Voice, a means of compelling a person to reveal the truth. There are more attributes to this voice along with imitations and weaknesses, which I found fascinating to see explored. There is one more ability Vonvalt has mastered too, that of necromancy.

Although I have said Vonvalt’s is a man who fairly upholds the law, who lives by the rules and his own moral code, Helena reveals Vonvalt’s flaws too. He can be irrationally quick to temper, at times dismissive of women’s opinions, and ever so naive.

“I have alluded to Vonvalt’s praise before as something that I cherished, but I put it higher than this; it was addictive. It was a sweet elixir.”

Helena’s relationship with Konrad Vonvalt is presented as a complex one. Helena was an orphan on the streets of Muldua, and even though Vonvalt took her in, made her a clerk giving her a life out of poverty, and essentially became her closest friend, he was also a man who had once joined the Legion army, invaded and oppressed her people; he inadvertently played a hand in the cruelty and violence brought upon her ancestors. As we read on it becomes apparent that Helena is not just his clerk but is actually being taught to become a future Justice, and she shows a great talent for it too. But is this the future she wants? Justices are respected and well-educated, yes, and their life might seem privileged compared to most, but understandably because of their powers they are also feared. To go into this profession is to live a life without affection, love and a place to call home.

“I wish I could convey with my quill and ink the awesome figure Vonvalt cut at that moment. He was power incarnate, a wrathful god, as unstoppable as the rising of the sun.”

Which also leads us to Swan’s worldbuilding. Helena offers resentment to how little freedom women have within the Empire, they may be able to be Justice’s like men are and live on their own terms, but for common women their choices were few. Yet it is clear that under the tutelage and service of Justice Vonvalt, Helena has led a life fairly protected and in relative luxury, for all his past deeds his status has granted her much. Which is why it is understandable that Helena spends much time in this novel detailing her deliberation on which path she wanted her life to follow. As much as this book is about justice, it is also about the choices we make in a world where even having a choice is a blessing.

“A small, involuntary moan escaped my lips. It was the helpless, hapless wail of the doomed. Unless you, reader, have been somewhere you are not supposed to be – and your very life is at stake, or at least you believe it to be – then I cannot convey to you effectively the terror of such a situation.”

Regarding the side characters, in all honesty I would have welcomed a few more female characters and some other characters could have included more backstory, I’m particularly looking forward to discovering more of Bressinger in the sequel. However, I became easily attached to Sir Radomir and Justice August. At first glance Sir Radomir appears to be your stereotypical small town drunk sheriff, but as events escalate we see Sir Rodomir deeply cares about his people and upholding justice. On many occasions his crude sweary dialogue really made me laugh. Calver, our main villain of this tale, was presented as utterly deluded, twisting the words of the Nema Creed to suit his purpose. You can guarantee he’s an effective character to dislike. As for Justice August, although we only get brief scenes with her, I loved her Justice’s ability and the way her character revealed how the Sovan Empire was on the brink of a consequential downfall, which Vonvalt needed to pay heed to, no matter how much he attempted to deny her claims. I found it so ironic that the one character giving sane advice was perceived to be insane.

As we reach the dramatic climax of The Justice of Kings, we see shit really hit the fan as our characters are thrust into utter chaos. They are each shaped into a completely different character from what they once were, and the lines between justice and vengeance become ever more blurred. I was left feeling satisfied with the closure of some of the narrative but also really excited at the prospect of where our characters’ journey will lead next.

Swan’s debut is a thrilling epic-fantasy with a murder mystery and supernatural twist that will delight fans of Sherlock Holmes. It certainly delighted me.

The Justice of Kings will be released 22nd February but you can pre-order your copy HERE

ARC provided by Nazia at Orbit Books. Thank you for the copy! All quotes used are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Profile Image for Hamad.
990 reviews1,306 followers
April 10, 2022
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“All may be judged by the law, so all may uphold it; but all those who uphold the law may not judge it.”

Actual Rating: 3.75 Stars

Ever since I saw the cover reveal for this book, I wanted to read it. The fact that it is published by Orbit and that the synopsis sounded interesting helped taking this decision too. I am thankful for Orbit for sending me a paperback ARC in exchange of an honest review.

I am gonna be honest and say that the beginning of the book was a bit tough for me to go through. However, I saw that my friend Leslie felt the same -and honestly no one gets my bookish taste as she does- so I pushed through and I am glad that I did.

I think there are some interesting (maybe even weird?) decisions that the author took when he wrote this. When I read the synopsis, it mentions Justice Konrad Vonvalt and the story follows him but it does so through the POV of Helena which was quite unusual. I sometimes had to remind myself that the first person point of view is that of Helena and not of Vonvalt. On the other hand, I think some points of the story made more sense that way so it is not something that bothered me as much as I found it fascinating -and sometimes confusing-

The prose itself is very good once I got used to the jargon used. Swan studied law so there is not a better person to write about subjects as the law, ethics and the legal system. The good thing about the book is that it starts from the toughest spot and it keeps getting better till the last chapter. I thought that I will end up giving it 3 stars which increased to 3.5 and finally 3.75 by the end. The opening quotes at the start of each chapter were absolutely great and highlighted most of them.

The world building is simple, the magical system is not a big part of the story but what we got was intriguing and I hope to see more in the next novels. I think it focuses more on the legal system rather than the magical one which once again I think is weird but fascinating for a fantasy novel.

“Power does things to a man’s mind. It unlocks his baser instincts which the process of civilisation has before occluded. Powerful men are closer in mind to wild beasts than they are to their supposed human inferiors.”

Summary: The Justice of Kings is a riveting tale that shows what writing outside the box is. There were some beguiling choices but overall it had solid writing, fleshed out characters and a nice story line. The world building is simple and concise and I hope to get more of the story in the next entries.
Profile Image for Javir11.
520 reviews154 followers
March 12, 2023

Me parece una lectura de 4 estrellas sólidas, que creo que puede gustar bastante a la gente que disfrute de una buena novela de fantasía.

La historia tiene un poco de todo, thriller, traición, corrupción, amor, acción y en general está muy bien narrada. El tempo es bueno y en ningún momento llega uno a aburrirse, aunque bien es cierto que hay partes más interesantes que otras, pero vamos, en mi caso el tedio no me alcanzó. Otra cosa que me ha gustado es el modo en el que se comporta la protagonista, me ha parecido bastante cercano a lo que espero de un ser humano, con sus vaivenes y sus constantes dudas a la hora de afrontar la vida. El mundo oscuro donde transcurre la acción también me ha parecido que tiene muchas opciones, lastima que se nos ofrezca poca información.

En su contra tiene la falta de trasfondo en la historia, se nos mete en mitad de una trama de la que nada se nos explica, si a eso le unimos lo ya comentado de falta de información sobre el worldbuilding, pues lo cierto es que puede dejar un regustillo amargo a muchos lectores. Como fan de Malaz, que abusa de este estilo, diré que allí entiendo que hagan esto, ya que solo explicar el universo necesitaría un libro de más de mil páginas, pero aquí no me ha parecido que estemos delante de algo tan complejo.

Resumiendo, si te gusta la fantasía adulta alejada de los tópicos de elfos,duendes,dragones etc..., creo que esta historia te puede gustar, ahora bien si lo que buscas es una novela repleta de magia y grandes elementos fantásticos, pues casi mejor que te centres en otra lectura.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,005 reviews2,597 followers
February 22, 2022
5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2022/02/22/...

You’d think as someone who has been reviewing books for as long as I have, I should be better at this, but whenever I come across something I absolutely and wholeheartedly adored, I always seem to find myself at a loss for words. You know the kind of book I’m talking about—the ones that leave you with a hangover for days and in agony over what to say, because I feel like nothing I could ever come up with will do it justice. It’s those times that I wish I could write, “I loved this book, PERIOD” and leave it at that, but of course, another part of me just wants to gush and gush and gush. I promise I’ll try to be as coherent as possible.

The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan takes place in a world vaguely analogous to our own, influenced strongly by the time of the Holy Roman Empire which was marked by strong papal authority and the spread of the Church. The story is told through the eyes of a young woman named Helena, the nineteen-year-old clerk and perhaps one day the apprentice to the Emperor’s Justice Sir Konrad Vonvalt. On his travels across the vast expanse of the empire, it is Vonvalt’s duty to ensure that its laws are being observed and followed. Safeguarding the peace and doling out justice wherever he goes, his authority is only second to the Emperor’s.

And wherever Vonvalt goes, Helena is also by his side to assist him, as it has been so since he rescued her from an orphanage when she was child. Traveling with the Justice is also his steadfast friend and protector, the veteran soldier Dubine Bressinger. As the three of them arrive at a town under investigation for suspected heathen practices, Vonvalt shows his dedication to upholding the law but also his compassion for the villagers who simply want to worship their old gods. This act of mercy, however, may have just doomed them all. It soon becomes clear there is more to the situation beneath the surface. The brazen murder of a Baron’s wife may be involved, which sets Vonvalt, Helena, and Bressinger on the trail of an unknown killer. Still, a simple investigation isn’t going to cut it this time, as the layers of the case peel back to reveal a darker conspiracy rotting at the heart of the Empire.

The entire story is told in retrospect by a much older Helena, recalling the adventures of her youth. It may be a common fantasy trope but it’s one of my favorites, and I loved the juxtaposition between the character’s wiser, more seasoned narration describing the naïve, fresh-faced, and impulsive girl she used to be. And young Helena is most certainly someone still struggling to find herself. Having been in Sir Konrad Vonvalt’s service since she was a child, she’s forever grateful to him for giving her a future even though she harbors doubts about whether she actually enjoys the work. Still, she respects Vonvalt too much to voice her concerns, even as the constant pressure to seek his approval frequently makes her grumpy and resentful, leading her to rebel in little ways, much like how a teenager would test the limits of her father.

Which brings me to the best part of the book: the expertly written mentor/apprentice relationship. Speaking of tropes I love, this is another one of my favorites. In many ways, Vonvalt and Helena in The Justice of Kings reminded me very much of Merela and Girton in The Wounded Kingdom trilogy by RJ Barker (which, incidentally, is another amazing fantasy series you should not miss). Both are narrated by protagonists looking back on their apprenticeships to mentors who were more parent than teacher. From the tone of older Helena, it was clear she had much fondness for Vonvalt and vice versa, though neither were quite equipped to show it. There were just so many nuances in their dynamic, so much the reader could read into the subtle complexities of their bond, that I was simply consumed with the masterful way in which all of this was conveyed.

The characters themselves were deep and superbly written. The more time I spent with them, the more I felt involved in their lives and cared about what happened to them. My heart was in my throat whenever they found themselves in danger, or if one of them had a brush with death. I even found my eyes tearing up for minor characters when tragedy befell them. My favorites were of course Helena, Vonvalt, and Bressinger, but I pretty much felt involved with all of the supporting cast and even the villains.

Finally, I can’t end this review without mentioning the story or the world-building, so well entwined that both were equally important in bringing the setting to life for me. The Justice of Kings starts off as a murder mystery, but quickly develops into something much greater and far more satisfying. For a Justice has more in their toolkit than just the authority granted to him or her by the Emperor; skilled ones like Vonvalt can also work a form of magic, enabling them to imbue their voice with the power to compel, or even use necromancy to talk to the dead. A vast conspiracy also drives the plot, as a power struggle in the capital threatens to undermine the power of the Justices. To an honorable man like Vonvalt, who is firm in his belief in the law and that no one is above it, it is a harsh truth to accept, and it’s fascinating to watch how the effects of this conflict gradually weigh him down.

Funny how I started this review feeling at a loss for words, and now I have to force myself to stop before I rave on for another ten paragraphs! While I’m aware it’s only February, I have a feeling this will be my favorite book of the year as it’s going to be damn difficult to unseat. Fantasy, mystery, drama, intrigue, action—The Justice of Kings has it all. Needless to say, I loved this book to bits, and I am wholeheartedly recommending it to everyone! It certainly ended far too soon, and I cannot wait for the next installment.
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
720 reviews1,172 followers
December 8, 2022
Check out my Booktube channel at: The Obsessive Bookseller

[3.5/5 stars] I knew nothing about this book before diving in, save that it had an unconventional narrative. And really, that’s all I needed to know. I generally love it when authors get creative and break a few rules. In this case, the person who would be considered the main character (as his story is the most compelling), is not the perspective the story is written from. Instead we see him through the eyes of his assistant as she retroactively documents their journey together. It was a risky strategy, as we’re missing the parts where we get to see WHY the character makes certain decisions, but it also makes for some surprising moments, so it’s a good trade-off.

That said, I didn’t really care for some of the behaviors of the main character. She read very immature to the point where I was wondering why her companions put up with her. I couldn’t tell if she was written that way on purpose to evoke those emotions or if my personal biases made me more sensitive to it. Overall it didn’t lessen the experience, as I’d much prefer an unlikable character to a boring one, but I can see her bothering some readers.

The story didn’t have as much magic or fantasy components as I thought it would. It was more a legal mystery set in a fairly typical fantasy world. Kind of in the same vein as Locke Lamora. I didn’t mind the lack of magic while reading, but after finishing the book wished the mystery component had been a bit stronger, as that was the main highlight of the book. I enjoyed the legal component and the overall theme and moral debate of following the letter of the law vs. the spirit. It was good food for thought.

I’ve never read anything quite like this and find myself interested to see where it goes next. I can see why a lot of people are loving this one.

Recommendations: pick this up for a low-magic fantasy with legal and mystery components. The unconventional perspective approach is unique and interesting enough to make it stand out a bit from the crowd.

Thank you to my Patrons: Filipe, Dave, Frank, Sonja, Staci, Kat, Katrin, and Melissa! <3

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.NikiHawkes.com

Other books you might like:
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1) by Scott Lynch Ashes of the Sun (Burningblade & Silvereye, #1) by Django Wexler Age of Ash (Kithamar, #1) by Daniel Abraham The Dragon's Path (The Dagger and the Coin, #1) by Daniel Abraham Traitor's Blade (Greatcoats, #1) by Sebastien de Castell
Profile Image for Edward.
335 reviews890 followers
January 28, 2023
Unique, thriller-style fantasy with great leading characters and a cinematic finale. It took a while to get into but once the plot and characters were established, the story went from strength to strength.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 57 books7,883 followers
December 28, 2022
Fairly serious fantasy, grim if not grimdark, in which we follow a roving Justice administering law at the edges of an empire that may or may not hold together. There's murder, fanaticism, treachery, politics.

I found it a bit slow, or perhaps static is a better word: the justice mostly seems kind of stuck and there's a *lot* of foreshadowing which to me always slows the pace down. I also found the narrator, an ~18yo street girl turned clerk, rather exasperating, in that we're told she survived on the streets, can pick pockets, and has been taught sword fighting, and yet what she mostly does is cry, scream, sulk, and fall in love at first sight with a handsome man. (And be repeatedly threatened with rape, obv: that goes without saying for women in grim fantasy novels.) It's a book where nobody is heroic and everyone is drunk or corrupt or otherwise flawed, but even so, the cumulative effect ended up souring me on a book which I was initially enjoying a lot.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
903 reviews775 followers
February 3, 2023
A courtroom drama, a murder mystery, a female main character/point of view, and some truly interesting political systems and drama ahead...

Readability: ★★★★ 1/2
Plot/Pacing: ★★★★★
Narrator's Voice: ★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★★

I shouldn’t feel like I’m pulling teeth by saying this but apparently I am… As someone who tends to steer clear of this type of story and world building due to general fatigue of male Medieval/feudal empire kingdom vibes…I just loved the hell out of this.

The Justice of Kings follows the story of Helena, a young female apprentice learning the footsteps of one of the king's powerful Justices, Sir Konrad Vonvalt. Vonvalt is a traveling lawman, the king's voice when the king is not there, and the wielder of supernatural powers all in the name of the law: justice.

This story has a very legal, judicial, and ethical vibe to it—people like myself, who love courtroom thrillers, should have this on their radar.

Helena is following in Vonvalt's path across the Empire, doling justice to each and every small town and making sure the law is being followed fairly from area to area. Vonvalt feels very much like the good, honest man trying to do his best in an ever-changing system. Along with Helena, Vonvalt's entourage includes his man-at-arms, Bessinger. This trio is an interesting bunch—one 19-year-old former-thief female telling the story, one vaguely 30-something bodyguard type with a checkered past, and one upper class lawman in his later middle-aged years with a burning passion for ethics.

It shouldn't work, but it does.

Helena, Vonvalt, and Bessinger unknowingly find themselves in the heart of a sweeping political saga just being themselves in a complex and ever-tilting world, and as Helena herself tells us: we had no idea what our actions would set in motion.

At the core of this fantasy is a murder mystery: one of Vonvalt's stops in the countryside involves a rich outpost city reeling from the senseless murder of a noblewoman. Noblewoman are not often murdered, much less with no suspects, so Vonvalt's bloodhound senses prickle, and he sets up shop in the city to investigate with Helena and Bessinger.

Things unfold from there, both on an intimate and a far-reaching kingdom level.

Overall, I thought this fantasy debut was utterly fantastic. Gripping, told from a surprising perspective, and engagingly thrilling due to foreshadowing from "future" Helena looking back on this book's events, The Justice of Kings was a book I couldn't stop thinking about. I read it in small doses over several days to savor it, and whenever I wasn't reading it I was chewing on it, thinking about the layers and enjoying the scope of the world building.

I think this story brings fresh air into a tired niche, and am eagerly awaiting the next two books in the trilogy and more from this author.

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Profile Image for Brent.
383 reviews38 followers
January 10, 2022
eARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I first heard of this book from Petrik and Allen on booktube, and just from their comments alone praising it I had to put it on my tbr. That's way I was super excited when it became available to request to on Netgalley.

This book pretty much hooked me from page 1. First of all its narrative style, first person retrospective, is one of my favorites in all of fiction. And this is an excellent execution of that style. It is told from the perspective of a young female clerk to a traveling Justice of The Empire named Sir Konrad Vonvolt. In this world law and justice is brought to outlying areas of the Empire by traveling justices who investigate, mediate, pass judgment and sentence offenders. They have training and certain magical abilities that assist them with this, and it is definitely some of the more interesting magic I have read particularly the way in which it is utilized.

The story starts by slowly introducing us to the world and characters and the factions at play. It does so without ever the slightest hint of info dumping. All of that information is conveyed so organically through the narrative I never once noticed when it was happening, but by the end you have a really good feel for everything in the world and the political situation. It helps that people narrator is a young character learning from the experienced Justice. Because of that the pacing is really a strength of this book. It never drags. It's very much a "one more page" "one more chapter" type of read. The initial mystery sets the hook, and as the larger plot is uncovered you won't be able to put it down.

Even though I thought the plot was great there is a lot more to this book than just good plotting. I enjoyed all of the characters and their development throughout the novel. It's really interesting to see how they react when confronted with the circumstances at hand, and how those change them long term. The author does that really well particularly in the case of VonVolt. Also there are some really good themes explored in this book such as the nature of power and authority and how that can change with political circumstances.

Now I do have one small criticism. There is one particular romantic relationship in this book that provides conflict for one character, but it wasn't a relationship I was ever really that invested in and felt a lot like insta-love. Thankfully it was not a huge plot driver.

In conclusion I highly recommend this book. It had pretty much everything I wanted and everything I love in a fantasy book. Now I can't wait to get my hands on book 2.
Profile Image for Raquel Estebaran.
282 reviews160 followers
February 22, 2023
Novela de fantasía de ambiente medieval que narra las experiencias de uno de los justicia del emperador, Volvant, - un hombre con un riguroso código ético que aplica la ley en el territorio del Imperio del Lobo siendo jurado, juez y verdugo -, acompañado de sus dos ayudantes, Bressinger y Helena.

La historia está narrada través de los ojos y recuerdos de la joven Helena, ahora una anciana, asistente y aprendiz de un magistrado que maneja ciertos poderes sobrenaturales. La trama se inicia con la investigación de un asesinato, y desvela las luchas de poder entre distintas facciones políticas y religiosas de un vasto territorio, unificado pero con muchas tensiones.

Una historia con buenos personajes y tensión creciente con un ritmo lento y pausado.

Muy recomendable.
Profile Image for Shirin T. (Happy Nowruz).
367 reviews38 followers
March 12, 2023
“Justice is not vengeance, and vengeance is not justice. But the two often overlap.”

I can't say how much loved this book!

I still can't believe how I've fallen hard for it!

“I am Justice Sir Konrad Vonvalt of the Imperial Magistratum,”

The story starts with the caravan of four people, the Order of Justice, in order to stand against chaos in the Empire of the Wolf.

Their employer, Sir Konrad Vonvalt, is on a mission to deal with murderers, thieves and rapists; Helena Sedanka, the narrator, Vonvalt’s clerk, her job is to take down a note during proceedings. Dubine Bressinger, Vonvalt’s taskman; and Patria Bartholomew Claver, a Neman priest who had imposed himself.

Sir Konrad, a man of justice, the Empire himself grants him the authority to be both Judge and Punisher. His solid belief is “No man is above the law,” and his loyalty to the empire is unshakable.

"The story of Sir Konrad Vonvalt, after all, is the story of the rise and fall of the Sovan Empire."

Fantastic world, Creative plot, Engaging and Compelling story with Mysterious and Suspenseful events. Very Well built characters, though I enjoyed Sir Konrad the most. I may be wrong, but I think the strongest element in fantasy books are their heroes. The beautiful part is that he is not exactly the hero but he is the best.

We are all put to the test by our hardest beliefs, and so is Sir Konrad who faced the difference between a piece of paper and steel.
Is justice enough? Where is the red thin line between murder and penalty or good and bad?
And I think the most important question that every character in this book had to answer to it was, your loyalty is to whom? God, the Empire, yourself, or someone you love?

Where is book 2, The Tyranny of Faith?

My huge thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK, Orbit via NetGalley for giving me the chance to read The Justice of Kings (Book One of the Empire of the Wolf) by Richard Swan; I have given my honest review.
Profile Image for aria ♡.
650 reviews44 followers
November 4, 2022
“Empires are built and maintained with words. Swords are a mere precedent to the quill.”

“The Justice of Kings” is the first book in the debut Empire of Wolf trilogy. First off, all the praise to Martina Fačková for the cover illustration because that is one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen.

Colonialism. Rebellion. Religion. Magic. Years of wars and conquest have brought surrounding lands under the Sovan Empire. To maintain peace in the chaos that is stripping away the culture and identity of other peoples, a special group known as the Imperial Magistratum, serves as the King’s justice across the lands. Travelling magistrates in a form reminiscent of de Castell’s Greatcoats and while they have several rules and laws to uphold, one remains the most prominent: “De jura nietra iznia—No one is above the law.” All may be judged by the law, so all may uphold it.

“All lords should be anxious when a Justice appears, obsequious during his stay and relieved by his departure.”

Sir Konrad Vonvalt is a Justice, ordained and given power to judge in the name of the Emperor and contrary to what you may believe, he is not our main protagonist. Make no mistake, this is his story but we view it from the lens of Helena Sedanka, an orphan he rescued and employed as his clerk. Helena is old and from her old ledgers, she narrates to us an account of her time as Vonvalt’s clerk as well as events that began in a small town of Rill, where she tells us, it all began to go wrong.

Aside from Helena, in his employment is his taskman Dubine Bressinger, whose main job is to be Vonvalt’s bodyguard. These three, as well a Neman priest named Claver, arrive at Rilla where the townspeople are accused of practising the outlawed Draedist religion. Vonvalt, while strict, is fair but Claver feels his judgement was too lenient to the heretics. They separate at Rilla but as the remaining three travel to Galen’s Vale to solve the murder of a noble lady, they are unaware of what follows.

“Only a Justice may compel a man to speak where it is not in his interest to do so.”

The magic in this world is mainly found in the talents of the Justice. Each Justice has their own unique gift such as necromancy or the ability to speak to animals but a common gift is the Emperor’s Voice—an arcane power that compels a person to speak the truth.

Sir Konrad Vonvalt, served and fought during the war and because of this, he has a firm belief in people following the law. Without laws, there is chaos but with a rebellion brewing, everything he stands for is about to get tested. While it was a compelling read, I found the plot more engaging than the characters. I felt no connection to any of our characters for the majority of the book and it was towards the end that I started to care about them but by then I felt that it was too late. Still, I eagerly await the sequel and between you and me, I can’t wait for Vonvalt to go feral.

“‘The wise man arms himself with knowledge before a sword,’”
Profile Image for Dave.
2,981 reviews324 followers
November 16, 2021
Richard Swan’s The Justice of Kings is the first volume of an epic fantasy trilogy set in the Sovan Empire, a Middle Ages type fantasy Empire filled with walled cities, knights on horseback, religious orders, and more. It’s an empire that encompasses much of the civilized world with, of course, barbarians raging in the north and the south. What knits thus giant kingdom together though is the rule of law and the promise that no man is above the law. The law is enforced by roving justices who speak with the Emperor’s authority and are judge, jury, and executioner all in one. They also have a few magic tricks up there sleeves like the Voice (like the Bene Gesserit voice) which no ordinary man can resist.

Sir Konrad Vonvalt is among the most fabled of the justices. His legend includes being a great swordsman with a history of battles. He has roved the town’s for two years without returning to the capitol city, accompanied by only a man at arms, Dubine, and a clerk, Helena Sedenka. He needs no army at his back. His authority is questioned by none – until now.

Although the trilogy is ostensibly about Justice Vonvalt, the story is told through the point of view of Helena, a nineteen year old orphan waif who falls fir the first guardsman she meets and has quite a bit of maturing to do. Vonvalt sees in her a possible future Justice, or perhaps more. Telling the story through her rather innocent eyes gives this novel its feel, authentic, innocent, growing. Helena is but a lowly clerk, but there are flashes of something more in her and, as we all know, sometimes the world teeters on the brink often upon the deeds of those you would least expect.

As a narrative, though, the pace begins slowly and takes a while to develop, but this is one worth hanging in there for. In the end, we get our hints of magic, our deadly battles, and the stakes rising to the point we can see that civilization itself is at great risk.
Profile Image for ♥Milica♥.
827 reviews242 followers
April 2, 2022
I had a very good feeling about this book, and it turned out to be correct. I absolutely loved it.

I saw one review say the world was inspired by Eastern Europe, and I've been excited to read it ever since. We don't get much rep, and if we do it's rarely good or accurate.

In The Justice of Kings I really liked the rep. I counted at least 9 Serbian names and one Croatian (we also give it in Serbia but it's a lot more common there), and who knows how many more Slavic names in general.

The world wasn't entirely Eastern European though, it was more a mix of Slavic and German cultures (and a few others to a lesser degree), with some character names reflecting both.

That part was kinda funny, because the tones of the names are different and don't exactly go together as well as a Slavic/Slavic or German/German name would, but it didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book.

I'm not going to describe the plot, because I think it's best when you go in as blind as possible, but what I will say is that most of it is essentially a road trip through different places, with some investigating and eventually a battle.

The road trip parts weren't dull to me, because I was attached to the characters from the start. And the investigation leads to something bigger that I wasn't expecting.

Now, the blurb will have you believe that the book is narrated by Konrad Vonvalt, which isn't the case. The choice of narrator was surprising to me, but it worked well with the story.

There's insta love happening between some of the characters, but please don't let that discourage you from giving this story a try. It's only a small part of the plot.

Also, the writing style? Amazing, especially for a debut book. I don't see how Richard Swan could get any better at it, he's already at the top. I'm excited for what he'll do with the next book(s).

And the descriptions of women? Totally normal, not typical for male high fantasy authors which just makes me have even more respect for Mr. Swan. I've read so many awful descriptions of female characters over the years, so this was a breath of fresh air.

Finally, the ending. I liked it, it wrapped things up while leaving enough material for the sequel if you choose to continue (which I obviously will). All the stars.
Profile Image for Emma.
971 reviews966 followers
September 12, 2021
Some decent ideas but overall a story marred a general lack of urgency and weird authorial choices. Review to follow.
Profile Image for Christopher Buehlman.
Author 12 books2,980 followers
July 6, 2022
The Justice of Kings is a smart, brutal fantasy procedural that leads with the heart. Echoes of historical dramas like Robert Harris’s Imperium and Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose blend well with fantasy world building in the tradition of Joe Abercrombie or Guy Gavriel Kay, but Swan’s real trump card is his characters.

Narrator Helena Sedanka, much like Cicero’s slave Tiro, finds herself in the service of a larger-than-life master in the form of itinerant Imperial justice Konrad Vonvalt. While she is no slave, she owes so much to the justice that her loyalty runs deep, and she stays with him even though she finds the work tedious and longs for the pleasures of love and family.

Sedanka and Vonvalt are as three-dimensional as fantasy protagonists get, and with the reader anchored in believable characters and a richly layered world, Swan has plenty of currency to spend on the fantastical. Even so, he spends wisely, and the human drama is never overshadowed by the Necromancy and other spellcraft that figure in the story.

I found myself riveted to the audiobook through a long interstate drive; I was actually sad when I pulled in to my destination just before the book ended, and as soon as I unloaded, I sat down and listened to the last of the epilogue. Simply put, this is damn fine storytelling. I eagerly recommend The Justice of Kings to anyone who likes their fantasy plausible, compelling, and expertly crafted.
Profile Image for Serge.
117 reviews24 followers
April 2, 2022
This was the pick of The Fantasy Guild Book Club for the month of March 2022.

“Power does things to a man’s mind. It unlocks his baser instincts which the process of civilization has before occluded. Powerful men are closer in mind to wild beasts than they are to their supposed human inferiors.”—SIR WILLIAM THE HONEST

What a great debut!

We are in the bleak depths of winter, with no breath of spring in sight, instead, the air is frozen in a seemingly eternal ice age, but there are cracks forming on the surface of the frosted lake that is the Empire of the Wolf. The vast domain of this superpower is governed by strict laws, enforced by the unyielding iron gloved "Justices" who travel the lands and make sure the Emperor's laws are not trampled upon. These Justices have received vigorous training in the intricacies of law, and one might argue that despite their desire for goodness, they are quite removed from their humanity and have perhaps lost their souls within the endless sea of laws and doctrines, but doubtlessly, they are enforcers of absolute fairness and bring order to the chaos, or they at least were until recently. The iron fist of justice has been losing its previously unfaltering grip, and with little deviations here and there, the foundations of long years of peace are threatened to collapse into endless pits of chaos and lawlessness.

Our story follows one of these Justices, a man named Sir Konrad Vonvalt, as he investigates the brutal murder of a noblewoman, wife of a well known aristocrat. After having started this investigation, Vonvalt begins to realize that it is not a simple murder, triggered by a possible robbery or some other form of assault, but that it is simply the tip of a very large iceberg of corruption and blackmail. While Vonvalt and his team are working on uncovering the truths behind this mystery, strange events begin to unfold around them, as Vonvalt realizes that his powerful sway on the nobles which has kept them in line for decades is beginning to falter. Vonvalt is an idealist, unyielding in his convictions and his belief in the power of good. As a character, he is authoritative and commands respect simply by his presence alone, however, he not only emits power, but also an aura of protectiveness, within which one feels secure and in the hands of the protective arms of the state, an entity that has existed longer than the individuals presently alive. Reading about this character, who is simultaneously kind yet ruthless in the application of the law with cold and hard and unyielding logic, was quite an enjoyable roller-coaster.

“Justice is not vengeance, and vengeance is not justice. But the two often overlap. The state is as capable of vengeance as any individual, for what is the state if not the people that comprise us?”—SIR RANDALL KORMONDOLT

However, Vonvalt is not the main point of view we follow in this book. Instead, we follow his 19 year-old clerk, who has been saved by a lifetime of probable misery and poverty by Vonvalt. This clerk admires Vonvalt, but is also occasionally appalled by his calculated exertions of ruthlessness to further the word of law. The writing style here reminded me of The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb, which is one of my favourite fantasy trilogies of all-time. Like in that trilogy, this book is narrated in the first person by Vonvalt's clerk, who is writing this story as an elder, recounting their memories with Vonvalt. The writing style was exquisite, and Richard Swan truly has a talent with words, seamlessly immersing the reader into the cold wintry atmosphere of the world, and having the blandest conversations seem fascinating due to the choice of his words which are woven together beautifully.

Another similarity to Robin Hobb is the author's ability to create extremely detestable characters who we cannot root for. The villains in this story have the potential of having the reader's blood boil just by their presence alone. The themes explored are profound, especially the shattering of idealism. The world here is a cruel one, and once the firm foundations of the word of law begin to crumble, we get to experience just how cruel humanity can be. We see the dark side of society, and how easily it can devolve into anarchy, and break the spirit of even the most headstrong and idealistic person. This is a story where even the most benevolent heroes can turn into ruthless villains, becoming the monsters they were so resolutely intent on fighting.

“It is impossible to impress upon a man the severity of a situation until the point of its remedy is long past. ‘Tis something to do with the nature of a human being, that ingrained idiocy. The gods must shake their heads at us in disbelief.”—JUSTICE SOPHIA JURAS

This is a must read for fantasy lovers, and if you're a fan of grimdark and dark fantasy, this book will very likely scratch that itch for you. Magic is definitely present here, but not the main focal point. The two types of magic we see used are the ability to compel someone to speak the truth through the "The Emperor's Voice", and the very dark practice of necromancy, specifically the ability to reanimate the corpses of the dead in order to speak with them.

I highly recommend this book, and as a debut novel, it is extremely impressive! My little complaints would be the sometimes never-ending dialogues that seem to drag for a bit too long, and the relatively slow first quarter of the book, which had gotten me to believe that I would be giving it a 3 star rating. Additionally, there is an insta-love dynamic that felt very shallow and out of place in this otherwise mature universe Richard Swan has built. If you are a fantasy lover, please give this book a try, it is a gem and the beginning of a potentially great fantasy series. I can't wait to get my hands on the second book as soon as it is released!

Note that this book has its fair share of graphic violence and gore, so be forewarned if it is something you wish to avoid for this reason.

"I felt another presence in the room. I felt it with absolute conviction. My skin broke out in gooseflesh. The candles guttered and faded. I hoped to all the gods I could think of that they would not go out. They remained lit, but the light they provided was different, somehow. It was as though the light itself was black."
Profile Image for Tammie.
317 reviews563 followers
February 22, 2022
I felt like this book had so much potential, but ultimately just fell flat for me. If I were to pitch this book, I would say that it's English Constituional Law 101 meets How to Get Away With Murder, with the aesthetics/setting of Skyrim. Which again, sounds incredible, but I feel like the execution of this book leaves a lot to be desired, and while I know that this is the author's debut novel, I still think some of it is not excusable.

Let's start with what I actually did really like - the themes. It's very clear to me that this author has a background in English law, and I think for the most part, the setup of the main themes here - separation of powers, common law vs canon law, natural law vs positive law - is really well done. That being said, I feel like the book quickly just devolves into a basic murder mystery, and not enough attention is given to the themes consistently throughout the book.

As for the plot itself - it was solid. I think the murder mystery was a bit basic, but it was fast-paced and easy to read, and anyone who enjoys a very violent and action-packed climax will be happy with the last 20% of the book I think.

In terms of the characters, I feel kind of neutral about them. I didn't dislike any of the characters per se, though I did distinctly feel like Helena fell into the trap that a lot of male SFF authors fall into and felt more like a man's idea of what a young woman is than an actual young woman. The character dynamics between the main trio is very much reminiscent of HTGAWM, to the point where I am half convinced this might've started out as a HTGAWM fanfic. Vonvalt is basically a male Annaliese Keating, Bressinger is Frank, and Helena is Bonnie/Wes. Their relationship with each other and with Vonvalt in particular is very similar, and just as toxic as it is in HTGAWM, but I did enjoy it for what it was.

I have two main gripes with this book that keeps me from rating it higher. Firstly, there is an absolutely absurd and unbelievable instalove relationship that permeates the first 60% of this book, and in my opinion, bogs down Helena's entire character arc. When I say instalove, I mean that when Helena declares her love for this man about 20% into the book, I genuinely had no idea who this character was. I hated it with every fibre of my being, and I felt like it was only shoehorned in because the author felt like a young female character must have a love interest, and it led to a lot of Helena's character choices revolving solely around men and not having a lot of autonomy.

My second issue with this book is the ableism. I think if it were not for the ableism, I might've rated this book a 3 stars, but unfortunately, this really ruined the last 15% of the book for me and I wasn't able to enjoy it at all because I was so angry. Throughout the book, I did notice multiple instances where ableist language was used as a descriptor (ie. using the word "mute" to describe someone in shock, rather than something like "speechless"). However, at about the 85% mark, there is a character who magically has their mind severed from their body, and they're described as a "drooling simpleton", which in my opinion, is incredibly offensive. On top of this, the characters go on to speak of this character as if they are actually dead, when in the previous paragraph, it is specifically said that they are not dead, just that they lost the connection to their mind. I think that the idea that someone who loses their mind/intelligence is equivalent to being dead is incredibly ableist, and doubly so when the language used to describe them has real world implications and history attached to a specific disability. If this didn't happen so close to the end of the book, I probably would've DNF'd.

All in all, I think this is an okay debut. It was a highly anticipated debut for me because of the themes that it promised, and unfortunately, it just did not meet my expectations at all.
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