Friday, 13 April 2012

'Seven Princes' - John R. Fultz

Seven Princes is the first novel by John R. Fultz. I'm a big fan of epic fantasy, and that's exactly how Seven Princes is described. Even the title reeks of epicness, not just one, but SEVEN princes. Throw in a Giant-King, one ancient evil sorcerer, plenty magic and betrayal and we should have everything we need for an epic fantasy. Thank you Orbit Books for providing me with a review copy of Seven Princes.

A warrior king, who has won all his battles, with no one left to fight sits safely on his throne. His son, prince D’zan, has not yet been schooled in the arts of war, and why should he? There is no need. Or at least no need anyone could have foreseen. When death comes to their city, it comes in an unlikely form. The dead rises up, and they show no mercy to the living. Only the prince and his bodyguard escapes.

Elsewhere, the Giant-King leaves his loving family to atone for a crime in his youth. Born a giant, but his love for a woman made him use his magic to turn himself into a man. His sons are human sized, but the princes posses their father's strength, and are all great warriors. Well apart from the eldest son, who is pale of skin and dark of hair where his two younger brothers are bronze skinned. This prince is more a poet than a fighter, he is very jealous of his brothers, and can't wait for his time to take the throne as his.

It's probably no surprise Seven Princes introduces us to a lot of characters with a wide display of personalities and abilities. They can quite easily be divided into two categories, the ones with supernatural abilities, and the ones without. D’zan, the prince who lost his kingdom, and who swore to retake it from the usurper, is just a normal man. Unfortunately for him, his enemies falls into the other category, so he will need help. John R. Fultz saga is a familiar one in fantasy, a young man who is on a quest to do the near impossible. Without any spectacular abilities, or even an army, he needs to find those who can do the impossible. Luckily for him, in Seven Princes there are quite a few with an army to spare or who is strong enough to wrestle a giant and win.

Seven Princes was a good read, but not a book without faults. I don't think any of them should discourage anyone from reading it, but hear me out and make up your own mind. The characters don't have much depth to them, they still manage to be fun, but they don't really go anywhere. Too stereotypical with comically evil villains and noble heroes without any complexity to them, no inner struggle or burden.

The only thing that really annoyed me was how immensely powerful the baddies were. It meant there was very little opportunity for normal humans to do much, and also rendered a lot of decisions irrelevant or just stupid. If your for just annihilated your small army, leaving only one survivor, the best course of action is probably not to send a new army. Seven Princes is not a tale of an ordinary person achieves something extraordinary. Nor do I think it has to be, but I prefer it when there is room for both.

So what did I like about Seven Princes then? Well there is is still a lot to like with John R. Fultz's novel. The world building is something I like. It's a world with a lot of room for amazement and wonder. The Giants are probably the most prominent example of this. Imagine a city where Giants and humans lived together, imagine walking down a street where the houses are not only huge, but the proportions are also enormous. John R. Fultz's world is a world where legends come alive. It's also a book for action junkies, every page holds exciting, or at least a promise the next one will.

Seven Princes was a book which both excited and disappointed. The setting and the plot promised a lot, but the flat characters let it down. It's saved by a relentless pace and a few heart stopping battles. Not a bad debut, but I think John R. Fultz's can do even better in the next part of the Books of the Shaper series.

Seven Princes weighs in at 480 pages and is published by Orbit Books.

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