Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press
Page Count: 608
Release Date: May 5th, 2020 (UK Hardcopy/US Ebook); June 23rd, 2020 (US Hardcopy)
Series: THE LEGACY OF THE MERCENARY KINGS, Book 1
Rating: 2.75/5 Stars – Some intriguing concepts, but ultimately not for me
Note: I was provided a free copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.
Ten years ago, Michael Kingman’s father was executed for murdering the Crown Prince. Since then, Michael has grappled with dueling legacies: that of the Kingman ancestral duty to be protectors and advisors to the royal family, and that of the ruined family name that comes with being the son of a traitor. Michael has searched for years for answers as to what happened that fateful night without success. But when he comes to work for High Noble Domet, the man becomes a surprising ally in Michael’s quest for the truth. With Domet’s help, Michael joins the Endless Waltz, the annual nobility courtship events, where he hopes to gain access to information kept secret by the royal family. As Michael delves deeper into court politics, it becomes clear that there are gaps in his memory from the time of the attack, and entire people he no longer remembers knowing. But if his father wasn’t responsible for the death of the prince, who was?
THE KINGDOM OF LIARS is a novel that has an incredibly intriguing setup that I ultimately just didn’t connect with. Let’s start with the good parts. There were many aspects of the worldbuilding I enjoyed, including the idea of a magic system where overusing your abilities could cause you to lose your memories. This meant magic users have to take precautions to keep memories safe, from journals to tattoos. The shattered moon that occasionally rains debris onto the city was also something I’d never seen before, and I loved the concept of the Endless Waltz, a series of events the nobility attend to arrange marriages and form political alliances.
After the broad strokes of worldbuilding, however, I found myself lost in the minutia of details that were left vague or unexplained. To name a few: How exactly (in normal times) did the Kingman family operate in their role as intermediaries between commoners and the royal family? What exactly is a person who is a Sacrifice? How on earth did a character who was a commoner when the book began suddenly show up as part of the Crown Prince’s inner circle? Some of these questions are answered late in the book, and it was at the point that things started being explained that I finally found myself enjoying the intrigue at hand. The night of a fateful ball in particular was an outstanding scene, full of tension and confrontation, but also providing understanding of some key concepts that had been eluding me up to that point.
I also found myself struggling to connect with the characters. Most of them felt only roughly sketched out. Some of this stems from the fact that, for an unknown reason, Michael can’t recall certain details of his childhood, including specific faces of friends he knew for years. But even the close friends he had in present day felt more like acquaintances than people Michael would put his life on the line for.
As for Michael himself, he’s purposely written as brash and impulsive, which can sometimes make him a bit hard to read. But he also does carry an enormous burden. Since childhood, he’s had the weight of being literally branded a traitor, reviled by everyone for his father’s actions. At the same time, there’s the weight of the ancestral family name – Michael comes from a long line of legends, of men and women who don’t live history, they cause it. Michael wants to uphold this legacy, not out of any sense of nobility, but because it’s what he was raised to do. It’s hard not to feel some sympathy with a character who is hated for something he had no control over, who is also under pressure to live up to the names of heroes.
THE KINGDOM OF LIARS was a book I unfortunately wanted to love much more than I ended up doing. Although it has some original concepts, it just didn’t deliver as wholly realized a world as I hoped. I will say that the last third of the book went much better for me than the beginning, as reveals and twists finally brought things to a head, especially as Michael uncovers what is buried in his missing memories. There were scenes where I could definitely see why this book has resonated with others (again, the scene at the ball is my favorite of the book), but overall, it fell just short of making me want to continue onward.