Publisher: Orbit Books
Page Count: 730
Release Date: May 15th, 2018
Series: THE KINGDOM OF GRIT, Book One
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars – Liked It!
Note: I was provided a free copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.
Ardor Benn is a master con artist, making his living jumping from ruse to ruse with his partner Raek. He’s pulled off a lot of impressive schemes over the years, but none compare to the job he’s been hired to do now: steal the king’s regalia. The client is no less than a priest, one who believes a great danger is facing the kingdom, but is being ignored by those in charge. Only a special fragment of dragon shell has the magic necessary to avoid the disaster, and the only known location of that kind of shell is in the king’s regalia. Ardor and Raek, together with the thief Quarrah, will have to infiltrate the highest levels of society to pull off the heist – but stealing the crown turns out to only be the beginning of the adventures for the crew.
THE THOUSAND DEATHS OF ARDOR BENN is a zipping tale of heists and adventures, with plans that come apart and daring escapes made in the worse circumstances. The author’s greatest strength is his plotting, rarely leaving a dull moment in the 700+ pages. The actual society-mingling and thievery takes place surprisingly early in the book, with at least half the remaining tale dedicated to turning the crown into the right magical component and stopping the impending disaster. I will say that the last few hundred pages alone earned this book a bump in its score, as there were some genuinely surprising and creative reveals about Ardor Benn’s world and the magic within it.
The magic system itself was also a lot of fun. Nobody inherently has magic, but instead cause effects by detonating small bombs of a substance known as Grit. Different Grit causes different effects for as long as it burns: Drift Grit causes items in its sphere to become weightless, while Barrier Grit creates an impenetrable barrier. Grit is an integral part of both everyday life and Ardor’s cons, and I enjoyed seeing the world-building of how society functions differently with this magic. As for how the Grit is made…let’s just say it involves the very dangerous process of tricking a dragon into eating certain substances and waiting for it to be…processed through the dragon’s digestive track.
While I very much enjoyed the overall story of ARDOR BENN, where things fell flat for me was the characters. I am the kind of reader who prioritizes good characters above all else, so this was a big flaw for me personally, and stopped me from giving the book a higher score. Unfortunately, the author was big on telling instead of showing, making emotions ring a bit hollow. For instance, there’s a moment where Ardor reveals he has feelings for another character, but to me, nothing about their past interactions indicated for a second that there was any kind of chemistry brewing. I love nothing more than a good thieving crew, with eccentric personalities somehow working together to pull off a heist. Again, while the heists themselves were solid, I just didn’t find myself bonding with the characters like I have in the past with other crews.
THE THOUSAND DEATHS OF ARDOR BENN is a read that I will recommend to some people, but not to all. If you’re here for a good adventure, with dragons and escapades and mysteries and conspiracies, there’s a good chance you’re going to like this book! For all my misgivings, I read the final few hundred pages in one sitting, because after a Certain Reveal, I just had to see how things played out. On the other hand, if you live and die by character writing, you might struggle a bit with this one. I will say for myself, while I really wish I loved the characters more, I definitely see myself continuing to work through the trilogy in the future!