I love the UK cover of this book, but I’ll be honest, I never would have picked this book up in Canada, simply because the cover is so outdated, and the summary not particularly engaging. However, as I was standing in Waterstones in London, desperately searching an unfamiliar bookstore for a book to read on the 8 hour flight home, the cover caught my eye and I went with it. And I am glad that I did, because it was certainly an engaging read. It is not, however, the type of read you’ll want to be swallowing in one sitting (i.e. not necessarily a great plan book), due to the complexity and sheer size of the story.
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings — cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule. Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.
As I mentioned earlier, this book is a lot to swallow. While it is breath-taking and quite enjoyable to read, this isn’t one for the casual consumer of Fantasy. Beaulieu does a lot of info-dumping early on, which quickly becomes overwhelming as the reader tries to understand what exactly is going on with Çeda, what the heck Emre is up to, and what exactly led Sharakhai to the current state of things on Beht Zha’ir so many years ago.
What I Liked:
- Çeda character was well written – she’s strong, she’s driven, and she has concrete goals the reader con understand and sympathize with. She wishes to avenge the murder of her mother, and while her goals may seem lofty, they are meaningful goals.
- The complexity of the story-telling and plot (with the exception of the lack of world-building, discussed below). The whole story was quite complex, which will definitely hold the reader’s interest out of sheer curiosity, if nothing else.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Beaulieu’s world-building, or lack thereof. I spent the majority of this book wandering around Sharakhai half lost, not really understand what the heck was going on, simply overwhelmed by the amount of information being thrown at me. While there is a way this type of world could have gone over well, Beaulieu’s lack of disclosure about a situation/person/belief prior to the introduction of the situation/person/belief was just down right confusing.
Overall, Twelve Kings was an enjoyable read, loaded with lots of the best elements of Fantasy – a quest, magic/mystical elements, and plenty of characters to satisfy the readers’ interests. However, Beaulieu’s utter lack of any sort of world-building, paired with the sheer complexity of the world he created, quickly became overwhelming as I struggled to keep up with the plot while still understanding the world in which it was taking place. Twelve Kings is definitely worth the read, but be prepared for a fair amount of complexity and thinking as you read- this certainly isn’t a book to be read casually or all in one sitting!