Book Review: The Justice of Kings


Richard Swan

Rating: 5 out of 5.

published: 22nd February 2022
spoilers? no

Goodreads

The Justice of Kings, the first in a new epic fantasy trilogy, follows the tale of Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an Emperor’s Justice – a detective, judge and executioner all in one. As he unravels a web of secrets and lies, Vonvalt discovers a plot that might destroy his order once and for all – and bring down the entire Empire. 

As an Emperor’s Justice, Sir Konrad Vonvalt always has the last word. His duty is to uphold the law of the empire using whatever tools he has at his disposal: whether it’s his blade, the arcane secrets passed down from Justice to Justice, or his wealth of knowledge of the laws of the empire. But usually his reputation as one of the most revered—and hated—Justices is enough to get most any job done. 

When Vonvalt investigates the murder of a noblewoman, he finds his authority being challenged like never before. As the simple case becomes more complex and convoluted, he begins to pull at the threads that unravel a conspiracy that could see an end to all Justices, and a beginning to lawless chaos across the empire.

Galley provided by publisher

Sometimes you read a book and it drives you just a bit insane. Okay, maybe here we’re talking more than a little bit. Maybe we’re talking a lot. Maybe so much that, come February, I will be all but begging everyone I know to read this book.

I have totally normal feelings about it haha.

I mean, I feel so totally normal about it that I started this review, stopped when I realised I couldn’t put into words all the feelings, and then only came back to it two weeks later, to realise that I still can’t put it into words.

This could be interesting.

At its heart, The Justice of Kings is about a man, an idealist, who is confronted with the reality that not everyone holds those ideals in the same esteem that he does. And that those people are even actively working against them. This isn’t from his point of view, but from his apprentice’s (and, as such, I have some suspicions about how this will go by the end of the series). It’s probably one of the most compelling fantasies I’ve read recently, and it’s definitely one of the best by a new author I’ve tried.

This is, primarily, a character-driven novel, as the description above might suggest. Yes, of course, there are big events, world-changing events, but it’s about the characters first and foremost. None of what happens would happen without them. And they’re deeply compelling characters to read about. The narrator captures your attention first (partly because she’s telling it in the past and dropping hints as she goes along), but every other character is equally attention grabbing. To use a cliche, they jump off the page. They are fully-realised, the kind of character you just want to keep reading about. If I have one regret about reading this book, it’s that I read it so early I have a good 2-3 years minimum before I can find out how it all ends.

On the face of it, this seems to be a fantasy murder mystery, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about idealism and power and everything in between. It’s a fascinating journey watching how everything unravels in this book alone, and I cannot wait to see where it all leads to in the sequels. I have my suspicions, of course, but I’m sure I will be surprised by whatever it is that Richard Swan does (the ending of this book is testament to that).

In the end, I think it’s probably a vast understatement to say I loved this book. I am in awe of this book. I think anyone who says they are a fan of adult fantasy must read this book. I’m not sure anything much else I read this year will top this.

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