Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Uncrowned King - thickening plots, new characters, lots of awesome

The Uncrowned King by Michelle West (The Sun Sword Book 2 of 6): And now for something completely different.  We move back to the north where the sole surviving member of the Leonne clan has gone from the least to the greatest rather suddenly.  His first act as uncrowned king is to try to save the other Southern hostages from retaliatory execution.  Then he just has to win the biggest tournament on the continent all while avoiding assassination at the hands of demons and humans.  There is absolutely no way to summarize much of anything in this sprawling book without spoilers.  However, Kallandras, Mirialyn, Devon, Sigurne, Merallone, and other characters are present and awesome.  Some new folks are introduced  (mostly awesome), politics are suffered, intrigue is enacted, people die horribly, surprisingly, and suddenly, and the author proves, once again, that she knows how to make a novel a satisfying story arc while still advancing the larger, seriously epic plot she has going.

Valedan is a really intriguing character, as is his advisor, the only bright Southern woman who did her best to educate him even in the North.  They have really tough choices to make.  Valedan is one of those good people who is thrown into a position where, suddenly, all his choices seem like bad ones, and he has to make them to prove that he is an adult capable of ruling an entire kingdom, but he has no real power.  I like it when an author tackles this kind of character and makes the difficulties real and believable and also finds ways to let the goodness of the character manifest even in the midst of all the choices. 

Having spent a book in the South, I find myself also respecting the author's world-building abilities.  She is good at depicting the different cultures and the ways they clash.  The way she shows you the limitations on characters like Mirialyn in the north contrasted against the limitations for the southern women is really heartbreaking in both similarities and differences.  This author also has that ability to surprise with the turnings of the plot.  You think you see where something is going, and then it suddenly twists and turns and shifts, and it's going in a completely different direction that is completely in fitting with the plot. 

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