This review was originally posted on Theresa Derwin's TerrorTree site (www.terrortree.co.uk)
12 Kings in Sharakhai –
Author: Bradley Beaulieu
Release date: 3rd Sept 2015
Page count: 592pp
One thing you need to know before you pick up this book – 12 Kings In Sharakhai is a big book, one of those that will eat away at your free time and keep you up well into the night. Forgive me the cliché please but 12 Kings really does put the Epic in Epic Fantasy.
Usually I’d start a review with the characters but the desert city of Sharakhai deserves pride of place this time. Sharakhai is huge, a massive trade and diplomatic hub in the middle of the desert peopled by the vast array of differing peoples you would expect. Luckily Bradley P Beaulieu has the world building skills to bring such a city to life. You get the feel of the desert’s heat, the dust and sand, the narrow streets and the imposing buildings. When the story starts out we are in the fighting pits and I swear it was just like reading in 3D Surround Sound.
It is in the fighting pits we first get to meet our hero Ceda, who fights as The White Wolf, a popular figure amongst those who come to watch and gamble on the outcome of the battles. Right from the start it is clear that Ceda is a bit special as she easily defeats an opponent much bigger than herself. Ceda is a strong, independent warrior type, maybe a bit Xena-like at times but she isn’t over cocky with it which I liked. She still needs her friends around her and they round off her character well.
Back to Sharakhai; The city is ruled by the 12 seemingly immortal kings that give the book it’s title. Many people live in fear of them, many hate them. Ceda is one of those people. As it turns out the Kings have secrets, secrets they want to keep at any cost. We find out through flashbacks that Ceda’s mother discovered one of those secrets when Ceda was only 8 years old. When she tried to make use of her knowledge she was taken by the Kings, executed and her body hung from the city walls as an example to others.
Ceda is not about to let them get away with it and 11 years later she wants her vengeance.
I’ll admit, this book had me excited from the minute I heard of it. I’m a sucker for a big sprawling epic and this certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s good to get away from the pseudo-medieval settings that most fantasy epics go for – the setting here being more Persian in feel. Beaulieu does a good job of bringing the desert to life and although the city is bustling and the characters are many the narrative doesn’t feel crowded. There is a lot of mystery in this story and you aren’t always sure who is in the right, who is in the wrong – at times there are groups against each other who are actually both aiming for the same ends – but it all makes for what is probably going to be one of THE fantasy books of the year and a series that will surely be up there with the Big Boys