Update (8/31/15): after reading most of Legacy of Kings and being very close to DNFing it, I dropped this from a 4-star to a 3 star rating. I thought the novella was entertaining enough, but had a nagging feeling as I was writing this that I was being too generous with my rating. After being reminded of all the issues that annoyed me in this book though Legacy of Kings (and a whole bunch of other issues, which I’ll get to in my review of it when I finally finish it), I decided to be more realistic with my opinion.
That being said, the following review has not been altered from its original form–only the star rating has.
Legacy of Kings is one of those new books that I’ve seen everywhere since I first encountered it and shelved it on Goodreads in June. I was determined to read it early but didn’t get any response from NetGalley on either of the two editions I requested. No matter, though—I soon discovered that there’s a (free!) e-novella prequel to LoK called Voice of Gods, which I just finished reading Tuesday when LoK was released. According to the synopsis, it goes a little something like this:
As the end of an age approaches, gods whisper horrors, families scheme for power, and one woman may hold the secret to a lost legacy.
At 19, Ada of Caria yearns to take the Snake Blood throne from her mad older siblings—and seeks the help of a young orphaned girl named Helen, the first True Oracle to have walked the earth in more than three hundred years.
Helen may be able to channel the voice of the gods, but she hates her gift, and will do anything to get rid of it—even lie to her best friend, Myrtale, the priestess-princess of Epirus who is destined to marry King Philip II of Macedon even though she loves another. And in the shadows lurks a handsome green-eyed stranger who has more at stake—and more to lose—than anyone could possibly imagine. Amid jealousy and heartbreak, torrid affairs and secret rendezvous, it is spoken by the gods that either Helen or Myrtale —newly named Olympias— will carry the destiny of the known world within her womb.
The prequel to LEGACY OF KINGS, VOICE OF GODS traces the intricate web of love and betrayal that led up to the birth of history’s most powerful leader, Alexander the Great.
My reading speed for this one started off somewhat slow, then picked up very quickly: as I explained in a Goodreads comment to a reviewer who criticized the first chapter of LoK (which I completely understand and had the same criticism of, myself—but more on that when I review LoK, as I’m reading it now), it seems as if Herman takes a chapter or two to really get into her groove.
Voice of Gods begins with Helen escaping from Koinos—a man who takes in abandoned girls and works them at the loom until they are “of age” and then prostitutes them. Because Helen is an oracle, though, he wants to sell her off to the Aesarian Lords, men who seek magical beings to experiment on them. Helen is desperate to get away and escapes in the middle of a furious storm, and when she realizes she needs to get across the breakwater to travel from the mainland to an island, she is conveniently pulled into the ocean and spit up onto an errant, unmanned canoe that is pushed to shore by a perfectly-aimed wave.
Moments like this made me cringe in the beginning—“can you say deus ex machina?” was all I kept thinking for pages to come—but those moments quickly passed and didn’t impact the story too heavily once things got going. Coupled with the prophecies that were composed mostly of cheesy rhymes, I nearly stopped reading, but I’m glad I kept on.
Because regardless of any minor grievances, Voice of Gods is an engaging read that made me genuinely care about the characters. Helen reminded me a bit of Morgaine from Mists of Avalon in that she constantly has a duty to fulfill and is used as a tool rather than treated like a human—passed from home to home, princess to princess for their own strategies—and I genuinely wanted more for her.
I loved the complex female relationships and the fact that Helen sees sexuality as a privilege instead of viewing her friends as harlots for having healthy sexual appetites. It’s rare to find a YA heroine these days who a) doesn’t hate and compete with every other female character in the book and b) doesn’t slut-shame other girls for having sex or being comfortable with their bodies, so VoG was refreshing in that sense—especially given the time period and the idea that an oracle is “impure” if she loses her virginity.
Overall, Voice of Gods fulfilled its duty in getting me interested in Herman’s historical fantasy world, and I was excited to start LoK yesterday. I’m hoping we get more information about the “handsome green-eyed stranger” in the novel, as I felt like his role—which seems pretty major from the synopsis—wasn’t fully explained in the novella.
Did you read either Voice of Gods or Legacy of Kings? I’m eager to know what others think!