Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review of The Last King's Amulet by Chris North

"My name is Sumto, and I am a gambling, lazy, good-for-nothing drunk who has to join the army and fight in a war I am frankly too corpulent to cope with. Still, that's got to be as bad as things get, Am I right?"

This does not appear to be the beginning of an appealing book, and initially the wastrel of a protagonist, Sumto Cerulilan, rather put me off. He is mostly interested in food, drink and women and doesn't hesitate to sell off or live off his slaves to maintain his "lifestyle". However, his engaging self-humor overcame my initial distaste.

He is a member of a society that seems to be closely modeled on ancient Rome with magic added, a change of pace in a fantasy which also has some appeal. As an heir of a "Patron" of the city of Luria, he is supposed to build a client base and take part in the martial and political society he was born into. His refusal and complete disinterest has his father about to disinherit him and his creditors honing in for what little he has.

However, what turns things around is when he discovers his sister is betrothed to a powerful man who informs Sumto he has no intention of being part of a family that has a wastrel in it. So Sumto will reform or will no longer be around to bother with. In this society, Sumto has good reason to take the threat seriously.

Given the choice between death and the military, Sumto joins a military expedition to punish the rebellious northern tribes, and thus begins Sumto's growth. The changes in Sumto's character as he faces battle and adversity is very well done. He does occasionally lose, but he never gives up, and this reader grew to sincerely cheer for him. It isn't an easy transition from rogue to responsibility. The secondary characters, particularlly Meran and Jocasta, are well-realized and not merely cardboard cutouts, which adds to the novel's depth.

I thought some of the philosophical discussion on government, servitude, and society slowed the pace down a bit at times, but it was all applicable both to the society in the book and to ours. The magic is well-integrated and also serves as an interesting parallel on how a society might try to keep power to itself. The prose itself was solid but not extraordinary.

All in all, in spite of a few slow patches, it's a fun read and I recommend it. I give it a four star rating.

The Last King's Amulet is available at Smashwords for only 99 Cents!

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