Thursday, 22 August 2013

Seven Princes by John R Fultz

(Spoilers ahead)

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually did, which is not to say that I disliked it.

The opening scene, where a sinister sorcerer visits the royal court, survives two executions (and to be fair to the King, one of those executions is pretty thorough) and then animates the dead of the city’s catacombs to rip apart the King and sundry other courtiers is a pretty good start. However, Fultz then breaks stride to start bringing in his cast of characters, the eponymous Seven Princes. A caveat – the cover suggests that somehow this regal heptad assembles, much like the recent Avengers, to take revenge against the sorcerer of the first chapter. This is rather misleading, since at no point in the book are all seven either together or on the same side.

Nevertheless, the book bounds along like an over-large puppy who is so excited to see you that it doesn’t notice the smashed ornaments and muddy pawprints.  In this instance, allow me to extend my analogy – at certain points, plot logic takes a back seat to the needs of the plot; one particular instance is when two of the princes are hurrying from location A to location B and suddenly realise that they won’t get there in time, whereupon a colossal (and literally true) deus ex machina eliminates all that fussy travelling.  There are also a couple of instances of “With one bound he was free” which get characters out of seemingly fatal scrapes.

And those muddy pawprints – the prose is pretty good for the most part but there are areas where we veer into the Colour Purple. Fultz might have benefitted from a stricter editor at these points as my eyes started to glaze over and I found myself flicking ahead to the next action sequence (fortunately, there are quite a lot of these).

But damn me if that over-large puppy didn’t grab me by the teeth and pull me from one end of the book to the other. I found that I did want to find out what happened to the characters; they are sufficiently well-developed that they stand out and Fultz does seem to throw everything he possibly can at them to keep the reader entertained (alas, poor characters, however; they don’t all survive!).

I think it’s best to approach this book with few expectations; it’s not the next Tolkien, Joe Abercrombie or George R R Martin but it’s not Terry Goodkind, Robert Newcomb or Jim Theis either. If you don’t expect perfection, you may be pleasantly surprised.


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