David Feintuch, |
With publication of The Still (Ace, 1997), David Feintuch proved himself to be as adept a writer of fantasy as he is of military science fiction. Feintuch demonstrates that his flair for fantasy was no fluke with The King, the long-awaited sequel to The Still.
Rodrigo, the 17-year-old king of Caledon, has support for his regency and command of the Still, the power to commune with former rulers of Caledon. Even so, he has yet to discover the extent of his power.
His kingdom is in a precarious position, as it is overrun by an invading force from King Hriskal of Norland. Furthermore, Rodrigo's own spoiled and impetuous nature gets in his way, and he relies on his friend and mentor Rustin for badly needed structure and guidance. As he ranges Caledon, he begins to mature -- until the unthinkable happens and Rodrigo is on his own.
Learning to govern himself is a full-time occupation and one for which Roddy has no luxury. As he lurches from one battle to the next, he grows in maturity and in the extent of his power. He learns how to be selfless, how to heal rather than harm, and finds that he is capable of both self control and kindness.
The characters are anything but cardboard; they are complex and compelling, and they become real to the reader. That the protagonist, also the narrator of the first-person point of view, is difficult, moody and arrogant is unusual and intriguing. Roddy's behavior may not be excusable, but it is at least explicable, and his development is apparent by the book's end.
The plot moves quickly with remarkable twists and turns as well as subplots which enhance the tale. When Roddy captures the Norland king's lieutenant, for example, he spares the man's life and asks for lessons in speaking the language of Norland, taking advantage of the opportunity. His decision has long-term benefits, not the least of which is that he learns to think like a Norlander.
Although The King is a sequel to The Still, it stands alone well, incorporating enough back story without becoming tedious. While reading the first book might enhance the experience, it's not crucial to enjoyment of The King.