Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Indie Book Corner: The Kingmaker by James G. Pearson

The Kingmaker by James G. Pearson

(Slight spoilers)

Kingmaker Cover 2

Do you like high fantasy?  Do you like epic sword battles and medieval speak, lords, ladies, lasses, lads, and the like?  Do you like magic, revenge, and murder?  Well then you will find a lot to enjoy in James G. Pearson’s the Kingmaker.  Below is my pseudo review.  I only briefly mention a numbered score because Amazon makes you do that sort of thing.  Usually I don’t bother.  Like here for instance.


Amazing Opening Chapter

I first read a sample of this on Amazon and that sample was so awesome that I had to buy the book.  I wish this had an animation to it but that's the power of books.  We must use our overactive imagination.  The book opens with a man with a fancy and seemingly important title getting his belongings together as he prepares to run.  He is frantic and because of this his family is scared.  This man is the Kingmaker and we get the sense that he's in major trouble.  Unfortunately for him some royal knights from a country called Dalamar have caught up with him and now he and his young son Rhyn must fight for their lives.  The scene is so hopeless and yet father and son fight on anyway.  Surrounded as they are by countless soldiers, they try their best to survive.  What happens next is pretty sad and sets the stage for the rest of the book.

Enjoyable Plot and Engaging Characters

I liked the plot and characters quite a bit. While I would not call the characterizations in The Kingmaker complex by any means I still found a lot of the characters very enjoyable. I liked the young Kingmaker/Warrior Rhyn and his “bestie” Dirham. I thought Dirham had the best characterization in the entire book with all of the issues he was juggling, his love of his family, and his everyman attitude were highly appealing. I thought Rhyn himself was a really stand-up guy.  He was strong, heroic, and just but ultimately confused about his place in the world.  I felt that his reasons for being confused were justified but also felt that he should’ve been more torn apart and reluctant in dealing with the loss of his father and his adoptive new homeland. The other characters I liked were Carrick the medieval serial killer (though not initially) and the mysterious masked man. The plot had enough twists and turns to keep me interested and turning the page and the big plot changer that happens near the middle of the story really took me by surprise. Magic is definitely touched upon in the book too and used in some neat ways.  And you get to see what's going on from the various villains' point of view too which gives you a 360 degree view of the plot minus a degree or two from one very mysterious character towards the end.



What is the Kingmaker?

We’re never really told what the Kingmaker is. We know that the Kingmaker is important and that they are good at fighting but never told exactly what they can do. I think this book, particularly because of its title should inform us more about what a Kingmaker is, what they could do, and maybe even a little history of the Kingmakers but alas it isn’t so. And so at the end of the KINGMAKER: Book 1 of the KINGMAKER Saga I still know very little of what a Kingmaker actually does. Without a way to judge what the Kingmaker is potentially capable of I lost interest in Rhyn a few chapters in and then he finally admits to his true abilities and I saw him get defeated or near defeated in a few one-on-one skirmishes. So the hyping of the Kingmaker’s abilities was quickly lost on me early on.

There are a few examples of what the Kingmaker can do but none are game changing or show how this person can change the tide of a battle and end a war like we’re led to believe. Right off the bat the Kingmaker’s legend and mythos are disparaged when the initial Kingmaker shown is quickly killed by a small force and then right after when the second Kingmaker is easily captured for fuzzy reasons that are never wholly explained. And with that lie the bulk of my issues with the book.

Great Concepts Needed Better Utilization

For one the Leonhardt, a fierce army of half lion half men are described to be a vicious legendary transformation unseen for hundreds of years. It’s a transformation fueled by magic but the only prerequisites seem to be that you have the blood of the Leonhardt and sign a magical waiver. Indeed even newly army joined peasants can become Leonhardt. Titan Goldclaw uses 100,000 of these supposed crazy powerful warriors against an army only 5,000 strong and still loses a considerable amount of his soldiers. With numbers like that the point of a super strong transformation loses its meaning and necessity. It would have been more compelling for the Leonhardt to be only 500-2,000 strong, the underdogs, and have access to this sort of magic. It would make more sense since we’re initially shown the Lion kingdom to be in shambles without a strong military. If the Leonhardt had won that battle it would mean something, as it was though it just made them look weak and the transformation unimportant. Rhyn’s effortless kill of a Leonhardt Enforcer also did the Leonhardt no favors especially since he loses a duel to a mere human right after.

Legendary Leonhardt Transformation...or Digimon Season 4...

Legendary Leonhardt Transformation...or Digimon Season 4...

Legendary Leonhardt Transformation...or Digimon Season 4...

Fuzzy Logic

There is quite a bit of fuzzy logic to sift through too. Some of the plots made by the characters don’t quite add up. Some of the events that occurred make no sense considering the character’s motives. I found a lot of this but am not so crass as to spoil whole scenes to illustrate it. The one example I’ll share is with the whole raising of the Leonhardt army. The one was raised from next to nothing in a kingdom wide draft to serve a man that they should have hated for all intents and purposes. They were part of an isolationist kingdom that hadn’t seen war for hundreds of years and mostly comprised of peasants. Suddenly they, through custom/ancient law/word of king flock to the army in great numbers and now have access to a powerful transformation. The king has armor made specifically for these larger transformations and marches into a war with 100,000 transforming soldiers in order to fight a group of humans that only numbered 5,000. More fuzzy logic concludes with this group when that battle ends but revealing that would slightly spoil a scene or two. Also towards the end a group rises up to join the fight but I was thinking to myself “where the F where you the whole time? Couldn’t you see all that fire and death before?”

Too many POV’s

While I really liked the POV’s of Rhyn, Dirham, and Carrick and found the POV’s of Alanis and Lyssa to be useful, I felt overall that there were way too many voices telling this one story. The story isn’t complex enough to require anywhere near as many POV’s and even with the ones we do get it often times jumps sporadically to another character mid paragraph. Tiberius’ POV’s do offer an insight into story as well but I would much likely stick closer to Rhyn and learn more about his abilities, and what being a Kingmaker means to him, and just generally what a Kingmaker does. I would like more with Dirham and more with Carrick definitely. What makes Carrick the way he is, what is his ultimate goal? Titan Goldclaw was also a necessary POV but just felt two dimensional to me. If he wasn’t trying to conquer things I would have no interest in him whatsoever. And everyone else that was covered felt completely unnecessary to me. The author may be setting something up but with his subject matter he could do well to set it up in a more established character’s POV or make these characters more interesting.

A Final Round of Professional Editing

The book has a lot of grammar mistakes, I mean a lot! Towards the beginning there are only a few and you can gloss over them easily but towards the end they’re glaring and happen really often which takes you out of the experience. Luckily this is the easiest section to fix since the author can easily update the book here whenever. I’ve noted down the errors I’ve found in the notes but these can easily be rectified with a (competent) copyeditor.

Final Thoughts:

This book is filled with great concepts, interesting characters, and a fast paced plot that keeps you guessing. What it needs more of is POLISH. In every possible way it needs more polish. A brief study of war and war tactics can make those sieges and battles even more epic. Some study of swordplay and fighting can make those conflicts more authentic and engaging. A fleshing out of those great concepts can truly make those ideas shine. My advice? Pull back on servicing the plot and let the characters be themselves and let us in on their world. I’d rather learn more about Rhyn, Dirham, and Carrick than constantly jump around to move the plot forward. Don’t pull back too far on the mystery of the Kingmakers. At least tell us what they can do, what makes them better. That and a healthy dose of final edits by a professional would give this the 4/5 stars from me. Anyways still a good read and I look forward to the next (hopefully improved) adventure.


According to the author's blog and through a conversation I had with him I learned that he is hard at work on updating the content of The Kingmaker.  He has taken his reviews and other criticisms very seriously and looks to improve his story.  This is great news for me and other fans of this first book who loved the characters, plot, and setting but had some issues with the storytelling.  The author, James Pearson, is also currently hard at work on the sequel to The Kingmaker entitled Kingdomfall.  He's also completed two short stories to compliment his series. You can check out James' blog here at http://kingmakersaga.wordpress.com/.

Old Kingmaker Cover
You can find the book at:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

And the companion pieces at:
The Order of Talos: Bear of Yarmir
Amazon US
Amazon UK

The Order of Talos: Iridi's Embrace
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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