For most of my life, I had no interest. I didn't want to read about some made-up place that never existed and people running around with swords and elves and trolls and dragons and whatnot. I wanted stories set in reality, in the modern day. Fantasy films were fine, but I only had to spend two hours watching those. Reading a fantasy book was altogether different.
I never read The Lord Of The Rings. My brother did, and whenever he spoke about it I could sense the frustration in his voice whenever he talked about the endless songs and silliness. I liked the movies, of course. Well, I liked the parts in the movies where they focussed on the humans. Hobbits I could do without.
And then I read a review of a book called The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. The review said this book had blistering action and fascinating characters and the whole thing was held together by acerbic wit. And that was the thing. Wit. Humour. For me, fantasy books just seemed so incredibly po-faced, like they took themselves way too seriously.
So I picked up The Blade Itself, and I loved it. I loved everything about it. I loved every single thing about this book and it was fantasy, so I asked myself— what else have I been missing out on? And the series that was recommended by quite simply everyone was George RR Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice— which later became known as the Game of Thrones books, thanks to the TV show. So I read that, and I loved it. I read the next one and the next one and the next one. I loved them all.
All this is a (very) roundabout way of introducing Curse of Kings, by Alex Barclay.
Alex is a friend of mine. She's a crime writer by day, and has recently become a fantasy author by night. I love her crime novels. I never know what the hell is going on until the final few pages, and I am technically in love with her main character, Ren Bryce. Ren Bryce is the most awesome woman in the world, and I don't care that she doesn't actually exist. She exists for me, and that's what matters.
Alex's crime novels are thoroughly modern and laced with one-liners and sarcastic asides, so when she told me she was writing a fantasy novel for younger readers, I was thrilled.
(Unless she's reading this blog. If you're reading this, Alex, I wasn't thrilled. I was the opposite of thrilled. I was un-thrilled. I was de-thrilled. It takes a lot more than YOU to thrill ME ands that's no mistake. Damn right. Darn tootin'. I'm going to stop talking about this now. Hell yeah.)
Curse of Kings has it all. It has kingdoms and heroes and villains and secrets and mysteries and swords and killing and monsters and monsters and monsters. Did I mention it has monsters? It does. Lots of them. And they're all... weird. Oh, and the book also has lamprey eels. Do yourself a favour. Search Google Images for lamprey eels. Go on, I'll wait. Just type it in and take a look... go on...
Yes. There are things THAT disgusting in real life.
I'm not going to go into detail about the Big Mystery in Curse of Kings, because even mentioning what the mystery hinges on could spoil it for you, and I wouldn't want to do that. Hopefully it'll take you as much by surprise as it did me.
And if all that doesn't convince you, take a look at one of the coolest book trailers I've seen in a long time. And pay attention to the man whose quote they use on the cover. He sounds like he knows what he's talking about.