The Withered King is a rollercoaster of a blockbuster. It starts fast and keeps right on coming at helter-skelter pace.
Fionn is an old-style heroic hero, the reclusive wielder of a Tempest Blade, and just about too old and too world-weary for another battle. But despite his reluctance, he comes to understand that figures from his past are reaching into the future and he has no option but to stand up and be counted.
He collects around him an oddly assorted group of friends and helpers (and the most wonderful airship) and together they go forth to face whatever fate has in store. Which is plenty.
This is on one side of the coin a traditional swashbuckling story of derring-do. On the other side, it collects together so many influences from mythology, to steampunk, to manga, to video gaming, that it becomes something entirely more complex.
I loved the breakneck pace and the fresh feel of the storytelling.
I was less happy with the sheer number of ideas crammed into one novel, at times I felt as if I was being bombarded by an overactive imagination and I wanted to shout ‘slow down’.
Taking the rough with the smooth though, this is an excellent read and I’d highly recommend it, both as a jolt to the system and as an involving piece of escapism.
Final Fantasy Meets Science Fantasy
Fionn is a hero from another age and he has a lot of baggage around using his power and his magical blade even in the best cause. In the past, he has seen them bring him only sorrow, guilt and regret. But when a new adventure opens up he realises he can’t ignore what he is, who he is and he finds a new generation of ‘Gifted’ who need his help to master their skills.
What I really enjoyed:
The Pace. This is a book which seems to pack a page and a half of happenings on just about every page. It powers along and once you get into the story it is page-turning.
The Setting. This has the feel of a world the author knows well. A world that is never over-described, but has the sense of solidity that only great worldbuilding can provide.
The Plot. Complex, twisty and coming at you from all angles. The one thing it’s not is predictable or dull.
What I struggled with:
Two things, but both are purely personal gripes – taste not substance and between them, I’d maybe dock a half star.
The Banter. I am not big on this kind of stuff in the most ideal of situations but when our heroes take time out in the middle of a battle to stop and score verbal points off each other, I struggle to maintain any measure of disbelief.
The Lack of Realism. Even allowing for the fact this was a fantasy, I struggled in places to believe in the events as described. It was so much like anime it was, at times, as if all the rules of reality went out the window.
If you love anime style fantasy then this book is a must. The experience of reading it is unique in capturing that feel.