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The Ruin of Kings

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Jenn Lyons’ The Ruin of Kings is the first of a five-book series that didn’t fully win me over but did do just enough to keep me reading through its 500-plus pages and end up sufficiently intrigued to move on to the sequel when it eventually arrives.  I just wish I could have written “excited to move on to” rather than “sufficiently intrigued.”

The novel’s structure is a bit complicated.  Two narrators (Kihrin and Talon) are each recording the tale of how Kihrin ended up in prison with Talon as his jailor, alternating narration (Talon’s in third person, Kihrin’s in first). Each, however, picks up the story in a different part of the past and then moves forward chronologically, so we have two time-lines set in the past and a “current” timeline with the Kihrin and Talon telling their stories. I put the “current” in quotation marks because we really have a fourth timeline—the transcription of their stories is being (or has been) read by a third party, who adds commentary in the form of footnotes throughout.

The basic linear story is Kihrin is a young thief staying with his overly-protective, blind musician father in a brothel. On one of his theft attempts he witnesses something he shouldn’t which eventually embroils him in events that soon overtake his life and reveal neither he nor those around him are who he thought they were. Between that event and his current incarceration, there are demon attacks, dragons, assassin cults, encounters with gods, enslavement, time spent in the upper tier of society, wizardry, revelation upon revelation upon revelation about Kihrin’s past and his family, duels, magical artifacts, prophecies, kraken, zombies, and even dying.

Generally, in a vacuum, the story is decent. The world-building as it’s gradually revealed is relatively rich, with various races, ancient battles, complex capital politics, an intriguing pantheon of gods.  The book is filled with tense, thorny relationships (probably my favorite part of the novel), some of which shift as characters learn more about themselves or others, or simply mature more  Underlying social criticism and the implied question of “is this a society worth saving from the prophesied fall” adds a nice bit of seriousness. Kihrin is an engaging enough character, Talon a nicely creepy narrator, and the third party adds a welcome bit of humor/snark in their annotations, as well as helps to fill in some of the world-building.

But I say “in a vacuum” because while all these aspects are solidly handled, none of them are particularly fresh. The young thief who turns out to be more, soul-stealing, magical artifacts that are both boon and bane, and other aspects I won’t detail are all things we’ve seen a-plenty in fantasy save to say that I was able to predict several “twists” based on prior readings.  Now, I’ve never been one to make that deal-breaker; I’ve often said it isn’t so much how completely original a work is but what they do with the tropes that determines how good a book is. And here Lyons, as noted, does enough with them to turn in a perfect serviceable novel.  Or would have, save for one other issue that I feel is somewhat related (though I’ll happily admit I can be completely off-base on that).

The major problem I had with The Ruin of Kings, as opposed to the minor issue of familiarity, is that it felt to me that Lyons herself realized just how familiar all those elements of her novel were, and so tried very hard to spice things up in ways beyond plot—say, with multiple narrators, multiple timelines, footnotes, unreliable narration, and revelations that turn out to be not revelatory of the truth.  And I want to be clear here that I’m an absolute fan of the attempt, both in general in with specific regard to what Lyons is trying to do here. I just felt she tried a little too hard, and instead of ending up with a stimulating structure or narration or plot, she ended up with one that was unnecessarily convoluted and cumbersome, and that at times therefore felt more gimmick than not (again, to be clear, I don’t think it is a gimmick; I think it just wasn’t executed to its best potential and so felt like a gimmick).  

I can only talk about a this in general terms so as to avoid spoilers, but in that general vein., one issue is we’re repeatedly told something about someone (how vague is that?) only to find out that no, there’s another layer of truth behind that and then another and then another. Once or twice would have been a nice subversion of the farmboy is a prince trope, but Lyons went to this well way too often for me. I started marking it in my margin about halfway through the novel and there were lots more examples to come. The twinned timeline is a neat idea, but beyond being “different” I couldn’t see any real impact on story or character to it. I didn’t feel, for instance, that suspension was heightened by the two tracks. At least, I didn’t feel enough impact such that it more than balanced out the constant need to readjust my orientation every time.  Adding in illusions, shape-shifting, and soul-swapping, plus simulated time travel, plus a slew of names that sound quite familiar just added to the sense that I was being confounded so I wouldn’t notice how generic the basic story elements were. 

I love when authors throw different narrators, different timelines, different styles at me when it’s done well. I prefer a non-linear structure. But I confess I became annoyed by all this about three-quarters of the way through (possibly even earlier).  Not by complexity, but by unnecessary and ineffective complexity. I’d say therefore it’s a credit to Lyons’ basic skill in storytelling and character that I kept going for another few hundred pages despite that constant annoyance in the background (that kept coming to the foreground with every new example). 

I did end up, as I stated at the start, won over enough to pick up the sequel in its time. And I sincerely appreciate and applaud Lyons’ attempt at a more interesting structure.  But at this point, given that there are four more books to go, while it clearly has potential, I’d suggest holding on to see how book two goes before starting this series.
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Thank you for the preview of this book!  I cannot wait for the release (today!) of it to jump into this fantasy world.
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The Ruin of Kings
by Jenn Lyons
Tor Books
Sci Fi & Fantasy

I have probably read more sci fi fantasy and horror books that the populace of a whole large city put together [or even some states] over the decades so I have gotten jaded. The book was so popular in requests I wasn't even able to e picked as someone to read the whole thing but did get approved for an excerpt. It was like cake and ice cream with topping.  An excellent won't put down fantasy of sorcery, court intrigue, rulers and plights it rises to the top like a souffle with an irresistible smorgasbord of characters, scenarios and telling of tales. I like that it begins with a backdrop of reading the history of a situation rather than anyone telling it as it leaves it all over over what happened and will happen in the court intrigue and lives of those involved. I love the writing style and the depth of the characters to the   point where you can see them and the surrounding environment. This is definitely a book worth reading and I can't wait to try and find a copy to pursue the tale in full
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I have heard really good things about this book but I just could not get into the writing style.  Just like the Nevernight series I cannot get into the constant use of footnotes.   

I will rate that book 3 stars as I love dragons and dragon stories but the way it was written I didn't enjoy -  as this is a personal preference for me - but I know many people that have loved it.
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I believe that this was just an excerpt, but I ended up reading the whole thing after it was published and loved it!
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3.5 stars so far. This is a brief review of the 'taster' of the novel available on Netgalley. I've already bought the full novel and am eagerly reading onward to find out what happens next, so in itself that is a good sign! Full of adventure and dark magic, the interplay of gods and ancient races, this is in many ways a classic adventure fantasy, with the familiar elements of a prophecy and a downtrodden young hero who discovers that his blood might be more noble than he ever imagined. What makes Lyons's book stand out, at least at this stage, is the vivid play of personalities between our hero Kihrin and the monster Talon, whose conversation creates the two strands of the story throughout the novel. Kihrin's narrative voice is fresh, lively and laced with irony, while Talon's eerie stable of personalities gives her a chilling insight into the various facets of his past. I'm intrigued to see where this goes and to find out exactly how Kihrin has managed to get himself into these scrapes... but can't comment any more at present. If I can, I'll edit this feedback to include a link to my review of the complete novel when I've finished it.
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review!
The Ruin of Kings has all the making of a great fantasy serie! I only read an excerpt so it's difficult to judge the entire book on it but so far it really caught my interest! Like so many others readers, I didn't realize it was an excerpt until it ended at a very inopportune moment!

The characters, especially Kihrin and Talon were interesting and the world building was well done. The only criticism that I have is that sometimes the change between POV was confusing . 
 Overall it left me very curious and intrigued and I can't wait to read the entire book.
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It seemed good so far.  I liked the world building and characters but I will have to read the rest of the book to give my full opinion.
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This had the makings of a really good story until it came to an abrupt end. Rather short if it was the start of a series, disappointing if it was a standalone
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Devoured this huge book! Every viewpoint was engaging and obviously different for each other and fast read with excellent world building and uniquely different storytellers. I can see people find this style more convoluted than engaging but, not me! Perfect for fans of Brandon Sanderson and his expansive worlds.
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I loved this book! It was truly epic. I liked the dual story timelines. Some parts were a bit confusing but overall a great read. I will definitely continue with the series
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This excerpt covers about 160 pages or 23 chapters of the full book, and on the whole I enjoyed what I read. I found the switch between third- and first-person narration a bit jarring and there's a lot of confusion initially, but the writing is really nice and it seems like a really vivid and well-crafted world. I will be looking forwards to picking up the full book.
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I really need to look more closely at the titles of these things. I haaaaaaaate previews and excerpts.
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I was really happy when my request for The Ruin of Kings was approved. Unfortunately, when it came time to read the book, I found myself unable  to get into it so I put it off and came back to it. The second time trying was after the release date so I decided to try the audio book from audible and see if that would help. It didn't. So with sadness in my heart. I must state that this book just didn't do it for me neither in written format or spoken.
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This was such an interesting read for me, and I still don't know how I feel about it. The book was good, don't get me wrong, but there is just so much left to digest after you finish it. There isn't much that happens in terms of action during the book, so this is much more of a character driven story. Our main character, Kihrin, was very interesting. I really want to see more from him and how his story continues to play out. The two different "perspectives" are basically Kihrin, just at different times and with one in third person and the other in first person. It was really interesting reading the two different story lines, but I was waiting for them to connect at some point. They didn't really come together at the end, and there was so much that was left open. I need the next book like now! The ending was just so strange, and it really threw me off guard. Every page of this book felt like you didn't actually know where this story was going. It took so many twists and turns. I thought that this book was super interesting, but there was just so much that I wanted to be explained in more detail. I liked it, but I felt like I didn't understand everything that was happening. Also, while this book is intriguing, not much happens and it is quite long, so it took me a while to get through it. I would recommend this book, but don't take the synopsis and the marketing with much consideration. I feel like they made it out to be different that what it really is, which is weird to me because the book is good and in my opinion deserves a more accurate synopsis.
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The Ruin Of Kings  Jenn Lyons
Pub Date 2/5/2019  Macmillan/ Tor Forge

#NetGalley ..thank you for sharing this #advancedreadercopy 
my advice bookstagramers? Reserve your copy and preorder today..this  🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 
Kihrin grew up in the slums of Quur, a thief and a minstrel's son raised on tales of long-lost princes and magnificent quests. When he is claimed against his will as the missing son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds himself at the mercy of his new family's ruthless power plays and political ambitions.
Practically a prisoner, Kihrin discovers that being a long-lost prince is nothing like what the storybooks promised. The storybooks have lied about a lot of other things, too: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, and how the hero always wins.
Then again, maybe he isn't the hero after all. For Kihrin is not destined to save the world. 
He's destined to destroy it.

The excerpt was a tease; and even though my TBR pile is a mile long in my Kindle and piled to the ceiling next to my bed, I emailed Macmillan TOR this morning begging  for the remainder of the book.  My local bookstores do not yet have this in stock and I must know what happens to Kihrin. He is the most fearless hero I have encountered since Jace Lightwood, a Kraken, Demons and a Dragon oh my!!! I was a little lost by the way there are two different perspectives of the story being told, and I wish the author had explained or foreshadowed why two people were retelling two different order of events but both were completely engrossing. The world that Lynn has created hints at a love of Anne McCaffrey ( the Dragon speaks and Kihrin understands!) a love of George RR Martin and Frank Herbert as the world seems to be a revolving wheel of elements between Dune, and mythical races with blue eyed royalty. The ships that sail in this world need slaves to row ..which leads to a 1400 time period /Middle Earth feel. I am glad this is part of a series, because we need a new fantasy writer who creates worlds of such depth. Award worthy and cannot wait #TORbooks to read the rest!!
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This was a preview, so it is hard to fully rate the novel. Originally, when I requested, it wasn't a preview :/
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Bought myself a finished copy! Excite to fully dive into this awesome fantasy! Thank you for the preview excerpt!
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I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons. And let me tell you, if the rest of the book is as fantastic as the first bit was, then this is definitely going to be a great read!

I’ll admit, I was a little confused at first because it felt like the book started right in the middle of a story. I actually looked it up to see if this was a sequel (it’s not, FYI). But after reading the first chapter, I began to piece everything together. Once I figured out what was happening, I was quickly wrapped up in this book. There were still some confusing parts, but overall, I had a lot of fun with this.

I loved getting two different, unique perspectives. Both Talon and Khirin. Their personalities shone through in their chapters and I adored that. I would have loved even more character development, but I’m hoping that will come through in the rest of the book.

Overall, I really liked the first part of The Ruin of Kings. It is definitely not set up like a traditional book and was a bit confusing at times, but I really enjoyed this story. Jenn Lyons has created such a unique and fascinating world. I’m excited to see where the book goes from here!
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This book was most definitely not for me. I struggled to get into it, and in the end had to put it down for many reasons. 

The storytelling felt incredibly tedious. It flip flopped back and forth between Khirin's story - in first person, at point B in the timeline; and Talon's story - in third person, talking about Khirin/Rook, at point A in the timeline. I think it would have been interesting if it had been done just a certain way, but this one sooo did not work for me. 

There were a lot of names and places being thrown around with little to no explanation (except for the mind-numbing useless facts in the footnotes that did absolutely nothing for the readers' comprehension or story line, which I'll get to in a minute) and it made the world confusing and hard to follow. I do hope the final copy will have either a map or a glossary (or both, preferably).

Which brings me to the utterly useless footnotes that made me want to rage quit after two chapters of reading them - I ended up skipping them altogether after a few chapters and I'm pretty sure I missed exactly nothing. There was "world building" in them on occasion, but it was irrelevant drivel that didn't add to the plot in any way, shape, or form. To further my point, here are some examples of said footnotes:

"The vane's eyes glowed."* (*footnote: One presumes not literally.)
"Most folks just assume it must be a diamond.* Hard as a diamond, anyway."* (*footnotes: It's not a diamond. /// *Harder.)

Like I said: utterly. useless. All it did was drag me out of the story. With such an interesting premise, I'm hoping that others will enjoy it more than I did.
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