Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday of June, so you know what that means. Review time! I decided I wanted to dig into some fantasy this month. Not middle grade. Not mixed with other genres. Just some straight up fantasy. So, I got an ARC of The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell. To be honest, I have no idea when it was actually released. Some places say it came out on May 5th and others say it came out yesterday. Either way, it’s a recent release from Gallery Books/Saga Press. As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get on with it.
The Kingdom of Liars follows Michael Kingman as he tries to find his place in a society that has marked him as a traitor due to his father’s crime. When Michael was a child, his father murdered the crown prince despite the Kingman family being protectors of the throne since its inception. Michael and his siblings have lived in the shadow of that murder ever since. But did everything go down like the king would have you believe? Even if it did, could Michael pull his family’s reputation out of the trash while somehow smiting the nobles? He has no idea, but he’s going to try.
Let’s start with the world building and plot. World building: I really like the concept of a magic system that feeds off of memories. Sure, you can use magic to do things, but is it really worth the risk? It ups the stakes in a way that most magic systems don’t have, which makes the tension much higher. I also enjoyed the shattered moon that randomly throws prophecies at the world. I’m hoping that gets more attention in future books. The plot itself is pretty standard. Some ancestor did something bad so now I must figure out what really happened and fix it. Blah blah blah. There are some twists that keep it interesting, but it’s nothing new. It’s not bad, just predictable.
The characters. If any other character had been the main focus, I probably would’ve liked the book a lot better. There’s no nice way to say this: Michael’s a whiny little bitch. All he does throughout the book is get into trouble and force other people to save his inept ass. It quickly becomes a question not of “how will he get out of this?” but instead “who’s going to save him this time?” He’s basically Frodo, but he has no Sam, so it’s down to whoever is at hand to do what needs to be done. Normally, that’s fine for me, but none of the other characters are really fleshed out enough to make up for Michael even though a couple of them could be awesome (I’m looking at you Kai and Gwen).
I also want to mention the pacing. This book starts out super slow. That’s not uncommon in fantasy, especially with newer authors. It’s really hard to explain magical systems and histories without getting infodumpy. But it can be boring at times. The pacing for the middle third speeds up to a nice quick and engaging trot (for lack of a better word). Then the last third is too fast, a little jumbled, and at times annoyingly vague (you supposedly see that emblem you’ve been trying to figure out the entire book every single day and you just now put two and two together? You are useless, Michael.) But yeah, it could’ve been a smoother ride.
The writing isn’t bad. There are a LOT of words. It’s been a long time since I’ve read something that dense that was written so recently, which probably added to the slow pacing of the first part of the book. But from a technical point of view, it wasn’t bad writing by any means.
Ultimately, I felt The Kingdom of Liars had a lot of potential. I will at least read book two when/if it comes out to see if Michael grows up any and what other prophecies the moon hurls at them. But if it doesn’t get better, I’ll probably lose interest.
Overall, I gave it three out of five stars. That’s a little generous, but I have high hopes for the sequel. If you enjoy fantasy and don’t mind unlikable main characters, pick it up. Otherwise, maybe wait and see how future books do before starting this one.