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The Kings Justice is a book containing 2 novellas, the first new writing from Donaldson since the (final?) instalment of the Thomas Covenant Series.
I'm giving this book 3 stars only because I'm a Donaldson fan, and thus I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt - perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for these 2 stories. I found them to be just so.....lacklustre.
All the usual Donaldson tropes are present - in the first story from which the book gets its title we have a mysterious character named Black, a world weary and broken hero from whom more than his very mortality might be required to serve his king's purpose. This story is so average by Donaldson's usual high standards that only a few days later I can hardly remember anything of note from it.
The second and longer story, The Augur's Gambit, has its own share of Donaldson's standard themes. In this story we have an island kingdom facing a prophecy of impending doom, and in light of that, a monarch who seems to think the salvation of her people lies in bringing them to the point of war and embracing it. Mix in some highly unorthodox political machinations and of course the obligatory hero who serves their queen with blind unflinching allegiance, honour and trust despite her questionable motives and tactics and you've got a very very poor cousin to Donaldson's excellent Mirror Of Her Dreams / A Man Rides Through novels.
Traditionally, Donaldson's greatest strength has been his characters. Throughout his writing, his major characters are complex and often sociopathically flawed people, whether they be emotionally or physically broken, maniacally evil or naively innocent and pure. Whether they were heroes or villains, they always drew a visceral reaction from me - whether it was extreme like, dislike or frustration. That is where I think the achilles heel of these 2 novellas lies. The characters in these 2 stories are either just so bland or tired ghosts of better characters he's written in the past that I found it impossible to care about any of them.
Hopefully this is just a minor blip and better stories and characters are in store for us next time.
In regards to the narration - the first story is read by Scott Brick, who has read parts of Donaldson's iconic Thomas Covenant books (frustratingly not available on Audible though). Brick tries hard to wring something out what is a really average story - so much so that he almost has to overact the narration in an attempt to bring the story to life.
The second story is narrated by Kevin Orton, someone who I have not heard before and his reading gives the story a kind of aristocratic tone, which while it took some time for me to get used to, did end up suiting the tone of the story.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Two great and completely different novellas. I loved the contrast of both readers. Scott Brick was perfect for the first story "The Kings Justice". I'm used to his voice on many other Donaldson works and he does an excellent job of voicing the dark and mysterious character named simply as "Black".
The second story was more traditional in a fantasy sense and I found Kevin Orton really shined here. The pacing was a little slower here but the ending was a nice payoff.
Overall both stories are superb and if you know or don't know Donaldson's work it's irrelevant as you will be highly rewarded with two very unique works from a master storyteller at the top of his game.