In a land where loyalty comes cheap, what does it profit a man to remain steadfast? That’s the dilemma confronted by Titus, young inheritor of an unexpectedly empty throne. His position is a stewardship in name, but requires him to navigate a rapidly decaying political situation that could leave the continent of Islandia in disarray. How much blood should be wagered on a vanished sovereign’s reappearance?
In A King’s Return by J. J. Johnson, the first installment in the Kingdoms of Islandia trilogy, politicking carries consequence. After the novel’s sluggish start laden with exposition, its plot gains momentum as foreign relations spiral out of control. Many factions are on the march. From the Scandinavian tang of Valkara in the north to the African-inspired environs of southern Khala, cultural diversity broadens the story’s scope. But in this conflict, even the closest of friends may harbor ulterior motives. Geralt, champion of the king who orphaned him, must determine whether his duty has limits. Imari, exiled heir, must discern between speech and action, even if it means relying on traitors. Someone or something is pushing Islandia toward all-out war. Can the old alliances hold?
Romance, magic swords, and intense battles proliferate as the narrative unfolds. Although A King’s Return would have benefited from another copyedit, this epic sweeps the reader into a world of mayhem and heroism populated by complex, sympathetic characters. It’s a rousing tale that ends on an expectant note, with a promise of even grander adventures to come.
Best for: Young adults, fans of political thrillers set in epic fantasy worlds.
Discern: Bloody medieval violence, some mild sensuality.