Review: Kingshold by Dave Woolliscroft

Kingshold is a solid debut in the fantasy genre that is often flawed but sprinkled with the occasional gold dust.

This was a requested review from Mr. Woolliscroft.

For a debut entry into the fantasy genre Kingshold shows a lot of promise. The story follows the events within the city of Kingshold following the murder of the King and Queen, and the transition into a pseudo-democracy.

Kingshold itself is the centerpiece of the story and whilst the city itself is well built, and the transition into a democracy offers a unique plot which I personally have not seen attempted before, the isolation within the single city does create its own problems.

I often found that having all the viewpoints take place solely (for the most part) within Kingshold not only limited the story, but it made everything feel too clustered and unclear. The characters themselves were hit and miss, with there being more than a few stereotypes from the fantasy genre, in particular the inclusion of an ancient wizard. But with that being said, the characters who did hit, hit strong. The aforementioned wizard, Jyuth, was well developed and offered some strong comedic value to the story. Hoskin, the weary-eyed politician who just wants to retire is also another highly enjoyable character. But beyond that, I felt that the characters were solid at best, and in the case of some of the tertiary characters, forgettable.

One of Woolliscroft’s obvious strengths in his writing is his understanding of the world he has built. He has managed to craft a very detailed realm of fantasy, that offers a lot of intrigue and mystery. But there in lies the issue. Due to the narrow focus of this first novel in what I presume will be a series, Kingshold suffers from not exploring more of that world. I found that some of the best writing and most exciting aspects of the novel were the discussions of far off continents, warring kingdoms and entirely other realms of existence. Unfortunately all that is only touched on in brief, albeit with great effect when it is. Hopefully this means that any future novel has been set up brilliantly, as I would certainly purchase a sequel which had a broader focus, as I have no doubt that that is where the skills of the author would really shine.

As I have seen it mentioned in other reviews I would echo that this novel is certainly one that takes a while to get going. In fact the first half of the story is threadbare at times as the author takes the time to introduce us to characters and the world at large (Which later pays off in the second half and hopefully in sequels). That isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of fun to be had with Kingshold, because there is.  What little action there is in the novel is well written, the characters who you are drawn to will provide you with the motivation to keep turning the pages to see how their story plays out and the overall unfurling of the election to crown a new democratic executive is well drawn out.

The actual quality of the writing is very high. I only picked on one very minor mistake, so if there are more mistakes out there among the text then they weren’t significant enough to be distracting from what I was reading. What surprised me most about the novel was the amount of humour that was entwined into the writing. It wasn’t something I expected to find among a fantasy novel covering the transition from monarchy to democracy, but it never felt out of place and often really helped to establish and further develop some of the better characters.

Overall I would suggest that this is certainly one to read if you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, however perhaps one to come back to later if you’re only just getting into that branch of writing. The promise of a strong sequel is there, and if you take this as the platform for a grander series to be built on then I would say that it does its job very effectively. If it turns out that this is the only entry into this world, for whatever reason that may be, then I may look back on it and bemoan the lost potential. For that is truly what this novel is, strong potential that perhaps isn’t executed perfectly at times.

Thank you for providing this novel for review Mr. Woolliscroft, I hope that it brings you success and motivation enough to put pen to paper on Book number 2.

Final Score: 7/10 Porgs
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Review: The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

The phrase “page-turner” is easily banded about these days, but Evan Winter’s debut fantasy novel earns the accolade.

Set in a mystical fantasy world, filled with Dragons, giant lizards, magic and an endless war The Rage of Dragons manages to deliver one of the most human and relatable fantasy epics in recent memory.

Rather relying on characters that are larger than life and wholly unattainable, Evan Winter creates a world populated with emotionally driven characters who, like all of us, have their own unique flaws and motivation.

The protagonist of the story, a commoner called Tau Solarin is the perfect example of a flawed individual. Rather than being the often-trod paragon of virtue that you can find in many, especially older, fantasy tales Tau is instead a young man who often does the wrong things for the wrong reasons. Despite us seeing the world through his eyes, thanks to Winter’s writing we are both able to understand Tau and disagree with his actions. Creating the perfectly balanced and compelling character that makes you want to keep reading, to keep turning the pages to see how their story continues to unravel.

And therein lies the biggest strength of The Rage of Dragons. Beyond the compelling protagonists and the fleshed out ensembles of characters that surround them, beyond the well realised world that is unlike any that have come before and beyond the intricately woven rules of the magic that takes our characters quite literally to another plane of existence. The strength of this novel lies in its story. Evan Winter does an expert job of keeping the reader focussed on Tau and his personal story of revenge. Then as if being jabbed with a hidden blade Winter exposes the reader to the wider connotations, the grander paths of subterfuge, betrayal and loss. The story appears to take the right step at every single turn in the path and I cannot fault any directions that Winter decided to opt for.

I would be doing a disservice to the novel if I finished this review before mentioning the love story. Yes, like most stories The Rage of Dragons does indeed feature a love story. One that at first I felt was both forced and unnecessary. But I am happy to admit when I am wrong, and by the end of the novel Winter had successfully caught me in a spun web of young love.

Everything flows near perfectly, and it’s almost astonishing to think that this is Evan Winter’s first foray into the realm of fantasy. I dare to say that this series could be something special. Get in there now and read The Rage of Dragons before it becomes something much larger. Hold on to that and brag to your friends in a few years time that you were a part of this world before it was cool.

Book 2 of The Burning can’t come soon enough and you can now consider me a full-blooded Indlovu, I am now part of this world.

Final Score: 9/10 Porgs