Book Review: Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

23569428Legacy of Kings
Eleanor Herman
2.5/5 Stars

Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

I’m not too sure where to begin with my thoughts on Legacy of Kings. If you follow my blog or my reviews, you’ll know that I originally rated its prequel, Voice of Gods, a 4 before dropping it to a 3 just the other day. I made that change because reading LoK reminded me of all the things I took issue with in VoG—only in this one, they were amplified to the Nth degree.

Still, I enjoyed VoG, and I was really amped to read this one when I finished it. But LoK left me disappointed. To avoid getting too lengthy, I’m going to break down my main issues with this novel into a few short(ish) bullet points:

  • Convenience. The characters never truly have to work for anything; just as I mentioned in my review of VoG, there seems to be a deus ex machina for every problem.
  • Too many points of view. Disclaimer: I love GRRM’s writing, which has many more points of view than LoK, but his books are also more than twice as long as Herman’s and have more room for it. Reading this, I felt as if I didn’t spend enough time with the POV characters (of whom there were 7) to care much about them, which resulted in quotes like “her heart leaps to see him the way he used to be when the world was still good” not doing much for me. It’s one of those sentences that’s supposed to convey how much the characters have gone through since the novel’s events kicked off, but it genuinely doesn’t feel like much. Which brings me to…
  • Pacing. It took me about a good 2 weeks to read this book, and it’s really not that long. But I had a hard time getting through it because, quite frankly, my eyes would glaze over here and there. There were pacing issues on a much smaller scale, too, such as the fight scenes. One of the fun parts of this novel is all the action, but much of it is lost in long, rambling, matter-of-fact paragraphs that don’t do much to build up the tension.
  • Telling vs. showing. A lot of LoK is told rather than shown. I can’t tell if this is cause or effect of my lack of interest in the characters, but I couldn’t connect to their emotions at all when the narrator was just handing them to me. I think it’s a little of both.
  • Unoriginality. I realize this is harsh, and I’m a pretty firm believer in true originality being dead, but some characters, relationships, and plot points in this book seemed almost directly lifted out of other popular fantasy works like Hunger Games and Game of Thrones. The similarities in the relationships between Kat/Jacob and Katniss/Gale are frustrating. I’m also pretty sure several Game of Thrones characters have cameos in this novel with little but their names changed.
  • Loose ends and plot holes. I’m tempted to write this off as the book being part of a yet-unfinished series—not all questions are answered just yet—but some of the narratives seem to just drop off rather than coming to a satisfactory cliffhanger or conclusion.

I was tempted to mark this one as DNF and move on, but I enjoyed VoG enough that I wanted to see how it all tied in.  Even now, dissatisfied as I am, I’m curious enough to know what happens to all the characters—and how all those loose ends will be tied up—that I may pick up the sequel when it comes out (though that’s a very strong “may”). That mild curiosity is enough to keep this book a 2.5-star read as opposed to a strict 2 or even 1.

As much as I wanted to put this down because I just don’t have time to read books I don’t fully enjoy, I was eager to have the opportunity to write a full, honest review for a book that didn’t quite work for me (and I really think that’s all it is; I know there are so many other people out there who love it). I used to be one of those people who rated everything 4 or 5 stars, but as I grow as a reader and a writer, I’m trying to take a more critical eye to stories and be a bit more honest in their star ratings. I also don’t think books that would have worked for me just 2 or 3 years ago would stand a chance now, which is something I realized after reading through and agreeing with all the one-star reviews of Fallen (a novel I rated 5 stars in 2012).

(Post-script, because I forgot to include a very big gripe of mine in the first draft of this review) – Herman also kept using odd words that yanked me out of the story to question their usage. I’m pretty sure the ancient Greeks and Macedonians weren’t using “reconnaissance,” a 19th century French word that was used way too many times for any novel, let alone one set in this time period.

Did you read Legacy of Kings? What did you like about it? What didn’t work for you? I’m eager to hear others’ thoughts, because I know this was a highly-anticipated one!

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3 comments

  1. :/ That’s too bad, Cristina. The premise sounds interesting enough, but I might wait and check out a few more reviews before I decide whether I want to read it. I sort of got burned earlier this year with another YA fantasy that had received a lot of hype, so I want to be more careful with my reading choices in that genre now.

    1. Yeah, it’s definitely disappointing when something doesn’t meet your expectations! Like I said, it just didn’t work for me but certainly seems to work for plenty others. I think a big factor here is how many similar novels you’ve read and how forgiving you are with certain YA fantasy tropes.

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