Backlist Burndown Review: Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu
Series: The Song of the Shattered Sands #1
Also by this author: Of Sand and Malice Made
Published by DAW on September 1st 2015
Also in this series: Of Sand and Malice Made
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.
This book released last year, and somehow I missed it. What I didn’t miss was how many Best Of lists it made at the end of the year. A clear sign I overlooked something good, and so I had to find a way to fit it in (and this is not a short a book). A perfect Backlist Burndown choice! Turns out I am very glad I chose it this month.
Epic fantasy is what drew me into the Fantasy genre, and its always so wonderful to read the first in a new series. This book is no exception. I was immediately hooked thanks to Çeda, the main protagonist. She is everything I love in a strong female lead character. She is not just strong willed and determined, but also a fighter that can kick some serious ass. I know women characters can be strong in many other ways, and I always appreciate that, but I have to confess, I do love it when they can also stand their ground strong in battle, or in this case, the fighting pits.
So right away, I felt like I was going to really enjoy this one just based on how quickly I connected with Çeda. Then came the benefit of the world building. This book doesn’t just stop at having an amazing female lead, it also creates a visually, politically and magically interesting story. It gets solid points in pretty much every category I can think of. With a desert setting, ports are for ships that sail not on water, but on sand. There is sand everywhere! And water is scarce. The story is set in the city of Sharakhai, which is thriving port city and major commerce point in the world. This brings all varieties of people and cultures to the city, giving you glimpses of the wider world.
Structurally, we learn more about the history of the world as well as the characters through flashbacks. This is a case of flashbacks done well. They broaden our understanding of magic, the kings, as well as of Çeda. The land is ruled by 12 Kings, who are both ruthless and immortal. Never a fun combination. Between the kings and their formidable soldiers and warriors, they are pretty much untouchable.
And as for the character Çeda, I felt she stayed compelling through out the book. She has been essentially on her own for years since her mother’s death, living with her friend Emre. She is certainly not infallible, which I appreciate. But is she is tough, a fighter in more than one sense of the word. She also has an air of mystery as she has several secrets, one is that she maintains a secret identity as “The White Wolf” when she competes in the pits and has a formidable record.
The story really kicks off as Çeda breaks the Kings rules to leave the city on a holy night, when being out is forbidden. From here, she is set on a journey to unravel riddles to solve a mystery that may allow her the vengeance she is seeking. I honestly don’t think I had any complaints or criticisms with this book. I was fully engaged and intrigued the entire time and was in a way sad to reach the final page, knowing I will have to wait for the next book before I can return. Highly recommend. (and luckily there is novella releasing soon to tide me over until the sequel to this one is released.)
I have challenged and committed myself to reading at least one book from my backlist every month and posting the review on the last Friday of the month. I invite anyone interested to join me and link up their own Backlist Burndown reviews. I will offer the link at the bottom of my monthly Backlist Burndown reviews, and also will keep a running record of the reviews on my Dracarys! Backlist Burndown page available from my top menu.