Firstly, let me just say this is a blinder of a book.
The last time I tackled a major fantasy saga was in my teens, so I was quite excited to get stuck into this one. I was sent a copy of this beast to read in preparation for my Q&A with Raymond E Feist at his Exclusive Books launch in Cape Town. (Thank you Jonathan Ball!)
It was a huge honour for me, and after reading the book I had plenty of questions. (I literally finished it in two days it was so good!)
King of Ashes is the first book in the Firemane saga, a brand-new series that has nothing to do with the Riftwar saga at all. Naturally I wanted to know all about this new world called Garn and its twin continents of North and South Tembria.
At the Exclusive Books event Raymond explained that the inspiration for his rival kingdoms was 15th century Florence when the Medici and Borgia were in power, while the Hidden Kingdom was based on 17th Century Japan. But mostly, he says, he ‘made it up as he went along.’
As soon as you open the book you’re plunged into the War of the Five Kingdoms and the great betrayal of King Langene, which results in the execution of his whole family. But unbeknownst to the evil King of Sandura, a baby survived the bloodshed – the heir to the Firemane throne.
Dun, dun, duuuuuun.
We then fast forward to the future to see how this heir is doing. The orphaned Hatu is being raised on the island of Coaltachin, also known as the Hidden Kingdom. He is being trained by an ancient order of assassins and has no idea of his royal heritage. His best friends are Hava and Donte, and the three get up to all sorts of mischief on their missions. (Plenty of action takes place on the high seas, which I loved.)
We also follow another orphan named Declan who has just earned the title of Master Swordsmith. After his village is attacked by Slavers, Declan and his apprentice go off in search of greener pastures.
Both Hatu and Declan’s paths lead them towards the same destination, setting the scene nicely for book two to carry on. Raymond revealed it will be called Queen of Storms and will focus a lot more on Hava (and her piratey aspirations).
King of Ashes serves as an introduction to this new world, its politics and its players. But there is also a sense of pieces being moved into place, like a giant chess game. The author masterfully builds up the intrigue and suspense, so the reader is left feeling like something enormous is about to happen.
Dun, dun, duuuuuun.
It’s a thoroughly entertaining journey with as much action crammed into the five-hundred and twelve pages as possible- sword fights, hand to hand combat, ship chases, sea monsters, secret plots and ancient curses.
It was an absolute dream come true to chat to the author about this must-read in person. He also took the time to give me some invaluable advice about my career, which was a defining moment for me as a writer.