This review is a part of TBRindr (https://weatherwaxreport.blog/2018/04/29/announcing-tbrindr-an-indie-author-and-reviewer-matching-service/) initiated by Weatherwax Report. I received a copy of this book in exchange to an honest review.
Kingshold is a story about transition of monarchy to democracy in a fantasy kingdom of Edland. Jyuth is the founding father of Edland and advisor wizard to the kingdom. He becomes embittered over centuries with the constant cycle of corruption of the descendant of the people he chose as kings. After the recent murder of corrupt and sexually deranged King and Queen in the titular Kingshold, Jyuth tries something new: a democratic election for a new lord protector.
In this scenario, theoretically everyone can nominate themselves as a candidate. However, the catch is that only people who pay 1000 gold as refundable deposit to Jyuth and own property within certain radius of Kingshold can vote. As a result of these requirements, there are only about 140-150 predicted eligible voters. Things are getting interesting when common people from different guilds and trades start to pool their assets to have a say in the vote.
In the meantime, there’s a conspiracy brewing in the Kingshold court, the one that may involve foreign invasion and jeopardise the whole kingdom...
On personal level, the medieval setting doesn’t work well for me. I’ve seen so many iterations of faux European medieval setting and this world is no exception. There are some twists here and there but it’s still fantasy medieval in its core.
The anachronistic diction and naming convention aren’t really my preference either. Words like ‘okay,’ ‘protein,’ or ‘grenade’ constantly broke my immersion. The dialogue can also be cheesy at times. Furthermore, the turns of event also feel unnatural or forced for the sake of plot progression.
While I’m not a US citizen or resident myself, I do feel that <i>Kingshold</i> is a study of the 2016 Presidential election. Xenophobia is one of main narratives used by some candidates and parties to rake in support and votes. There’s even a reference in the book on conquering other nations and making them paying for Kingshold walls. Powerful merchants and guilds are parallels to rich businessmen and big corporations who can control the vote with their inexhaustible resources.
While I find this exercise interesting, I am not a big fan to the notion that the better candidates for the lord protector come from merchant and noble classes. I do like the bigger theme of people power and mobility incited and organised by common people.
The political play has potentials, but it’s often abandoned for the sake of building up the main villain. Some candidates aren’t fleshed out enough, so by the time they are removed from their candidacy, the impacts feel weak. The voting process itself is a mess. There are no clear rules on what will happen to the cast votes if a specific candidate dies or becomes invalid. From a scene near the end of the book it seems that these votes still count. This results in a relatively unsatisfying payoff.
Kingshold is a mixed bag for me. It starts up strong but the longer it goes the more fatigued I feel. And even then, some subplots don't get rewarding payoffs not to mention some intentional loose ends to build up the sequel. I reckon this book will work better with tighter editing by cutting some subplots, perhaps into 65%-80% of the original length.
The pacing feels unbalanced as at some places the plot feels dragging, but at other times, the problems seems to be solved quickly. There is one instance where Mareth uses his expertise as a bard to rouse the masses. This could be a powerful speech/song scene, but it is only described in one short paragraph.
Despite this, I feel Kingshold is still a pretty strong read. I will recommend this book for people who like medieval setting and its politics.