What praise is adequate for a torrent of imagination that spills over into your dreams? How do you value a thing that gives you raccoon eyes and a thousand yard stare? I'm not sure my reviewing skills are up to the task.
This great meaty hunk of storytelling bad-assery knocked my socks off.
The world building - unusual and fascinating. I kept pausing to carve out a new place for the barren Lands of Ash in my brain. Squishing it into fantasy clichés didn't work. There was a touch of the Germanic and the Norse there, but also *something more*. Check out the maps, there's nothing stereotypical about this world.
Also, an author of substance has finally given tropical islands a place in the heart of fantasy. Can I just say, about time?
I appreciate that the world isn't dumped on the reader in over-saturated high definition. It's subtle and it moves with you, shedding light along the story's path while retaining some mystery. Yes, it's dark, but in the way that humanity can be (generally is) dark. There's no big bad that we haven't seen in our own history of madness and poverty. Room is left for hope.
I'd never experienced the "slack-jawed" phenomenon before and thought it might be a myth. Well, tendons in that general area lost some elasticity as Ruka's story unfolded. In 600 pages the characters are rolled out with depth and complexity. They are never boring. Every shred of back story was formative. The primary characters are nicely contrasted with healthy grey areas. I did wish for a bit more banter - the primary characters are frequently alone or holding their secrets close - but everyone is in place for some witty riposting in book 2, which promises to be a cracker.
The editing was clean, which deserves a nod for an indie book. The quality of indie fantasy is skyrocketing year by year, and Kings of Paradise is setting the pace for 2018. May all follow in its footsteps.