Tag Archives: The Cursed Kingdoms trilogy

Review of The Blood Curse – Book 3 of The Cursed Kingdoms trilogy by Emily Gee

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I recently read The Fire Prince – see my review here – and immediately found myself connecting with the storyline and vivid characters so that by the time I reached the end, I vowed to treat myself to getting hold of The Blood Curse in the New Year. But the very next time I went to the library, there was the book on the shelves…

thebloodcurseA curse is ravaging the Seven Kingdoms. Fugitive Osgaardan prince, Harkeld, is the one person who can destroy it. Guarded by Sentinel mages, pursued by Fithian assassins, he begins the final – and most dangerous – stage of his quest: entering the cursed kingdom of Sault, where drinking even one drop of water means madness and death. But the mages aren’t the only travellers heading east. Princess Brigitta, abducted by the Fithians, is also bound for Sault – unless she can escape. And in close pursuit is her loyal armsman, Karel. Young orphan, Jaumé, is also headed for Sault – where he will be forced to make decisions that will change the fate of the Seven Kingdoms forever.

It was a real stroke of luck to encounter this book when the story was still singing inside my head, so I immediately opened it up and sank back into the world with a sigh of pleasure. Gee is very good at delivering the multiple storylines experienced by her group of protagonists without any jarring sudden switches or sense of dislocation – which is a lot harder than she makes it look. Each character has developed and changed throughout the trilogy and I have enjoyed watching each one travel on an arc – those that haven’t been killed off, that it… Gee hasn’t quite got the ruthlessness of George R.R. Martin, but throughout the series, I’ve been a tad winded at times after a skirmish that has offed yet another poor soul I expected would play a major role in the rest of the book. So I have genuinely been reading the fight scenes holding my breath in case another strong likeable character met an untimely end.

The worldbuilding is solid and well depicted without holding up any of the narrative pace and I have also appreciated having a ringside seat with the antagonists, especially Bennick, who spends time and attention looking after Jaumé. It is part of the strength of her writing that Gee doesn’t tell us that law and order is breaking down, but shows us that Jaumé’s only option is to stick with the Fithian assassins, even when he realises what they intend to do, because there is nowhere else a small orphan boy can go.

So, after three books, does Gee bring the story to a satisfying conclusion, tying up all the loose ends? Oh, for sure. In addition to the anticipated closure of the main storyline, there are a couple of other major plots that need tidying up and she ensures they are also sorted out. All in all, a real treat over the Christmas holidays – but whatever you do, don’t start with this book, instead track down The Sentinel Mage – see my review here. It would be a crying shame not to appreciate this excellent series from the beginning.
9/10

Review of The Fire Prince – Book 2 of The Cursed Kingdoms trilogy by Emily Gee

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I read the first book The Sentinel Mage and reviewed it here – would the second book prove to be as entertaining?

thefireprinceThe Seven Kingdoms are in the grip of an ancient and terrible blood curse. Thousands have died; thousands more yet will. Only one man can end the curse: the fugitive Osgaardan prince and reluctant mage, Harkeld. The road to salvation is long and arduous. Harkeld has outrun his father’s soldiers, but he can’t hope to outrun the assassins – the notorious, deadly Fithians – clamouring for the bounty on his head. Even the Sentinel mages who guide and guard him are no match for Fithian steel. Faced with the ever-present threat of death, Harkeld must learn to use his fire magic, or die. Meanwhile, in Osgaard’s gold-tiled palace, Harkeld’s sister Princess Brigitta is living on borrowed time, hostage to their brother’s ambition. And far to the east, young orphan Jaimé journeys with a band of mysterious, dangerous fighters, heading north for a purpose he does not yet understand.

I enjoyed the first book and liked this one even more. The characters and world had stayed with me sufficiently that despite having read The Sentinel Mage back in May, I immediately found myself back in the world. This time around, the story hit the ground running and we were right back in the middle of the action with Harkeld still dodging and ducking while being looked after by a group of mages. While he still loathes and despises everything they stand for, after a catastrophic attack, he finds he has to learn how to control his formidable skills. I still want to shake him till his teeth rattle, but this time around he isn’t quite so annoying.

Princess Brigitta’s story is every bit as gripping as she struggles to cope after being married off in the first book as major changes are afoot in the palace – and not necessarily for the good… While poor little orphaned Jaimé is tagging along with a group of armed men, who allow him to do chores in return for food and shelter – they even train him to use a knife.

The story whips along at an increasing lick and held me so that I stayed up reading way later than I should. Be warned, though, there is no real resolution to the story arc, so I need to get hold of the third book in the series, The Blood Curse to find out how everyone fares. Which is one of my New Year’s resolutions. Without holding up the pace, Gee has evoked a vivid world where a terrible curse is destabilising the populace as it pollutes the water supply. Besides, I find I’m warming to the spoilt prince – in fact it is a refreshing change to have a flawed protagonist I’d like to slap at times for his selfish thoughtlessness.
9/10

Review of The Sentinel Mage – Book 1 of The Cursed Kingdoms series by Emily Gee

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I had enjoyed Gee’s romantic fantasy offering Thief With No Shadow – see my review here – so was delighted to pick up this book at Fantasycon last year. Would I also like The Sentinel Mage?

thesentinelmageIn a distant corner of the Seven Kingdoms, an ancient curse festers and grows, consuming everything in its path. Only one man can break it: Harkeld of Osgaard, a prince with mage’s blood in his veins. But Prince Harkeld has a bounty on his head and assassins at his heels. Innis is a gifted shapeshifter. Now she must do the forbidden: become a man. She must stand at Prince Harkeld’s side as his armsman, protecting and deceiving him.

This is an enjoyable set up, but also cosily familiar. Something nasty is emerging after being let loose so long ago that everyone who knew how to handle it has long gone… And magic-wielders are both feared and hunted down in most of the cursed kingdoms. So when one of their elite units, including Innis, are sent out to scoop up Harkeld, they have to keep their shape-shifting and magical activities to a minimum. That said, I’m not going to reject a read on the grounds that it isn’t original – I’m far more interested in whether it is well-written, engrossing and enjoyable.

I was surprised to find Harkeld rather a priggish pain. Despite spending a lot of time up close and personal with the band of mages, other than his bodyguard, he refuses to let down his guard. He is determined to find them repellent – even after their courage in saving his life several times. It’s a brave decision to continue to make one of the main protagonists so unappealing. However his sister, Brigitta, is far more engaging and her storyline was the one that drew me in the most. From being the victimised, helpless princess used as a pawn in her father’s power ploys, she transforms into a far more nuanced, intriguing character who makes some interesting choices.

As regards the main storyline – the journey to the first anchor stone to try and break the curse – the narrative is smoothly delivered and Gee handles the fight scenes well, providing plenty of tension and drama. I was sufficiently caught up in the story to power through it to discover what happened next. Any grizzles? Gee is evidently a capable and experienced author – but I do feel she could trust her readers a tad more. There is a lot of repetition. Harkeld spends a lot of time gritting his teeth over having to travel with these nasty old mages… Brigitta’s armsman is either being mocked and taunted by the other guards, or eating his heart out over her… Innis is regularly worrying whether she’s spending too long in one shape… As Gee writes very short chapters, and the viewpoint scenes change regularly, having each character revisit these concerns quite so frequently starts to grate a little, as well as slow up the overall pace, which otherwise is pleasingly snappy in a genre with often takes more time than it should.

What she doesn’t do, is spend pages and pages in a lot of complicated exposition about the ancient history going back several generations – a genre convention I’m delighted to see the back of… Will I get hold of The Fire Prince? Probably. If you enjoy a relatively straightforward medieval fantasy read told by an author who knows how to tell the story at a reasonable clip and handles action scenes well, then give this a go.
7/10