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Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

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Book Review: The Justice of Kings

A relic of fantasy’s past finds an uncertain place in the genre’s present.
Loegan Magic
Could this be the future of the fantasy genre?

The Justice Of Kings is a fantasy that follows the adventures of Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an Imperial Justice who acts as a state-sanctioned judge, jury, and executioner in the empire of the Wolf.

By his side is roguish bodyguard Dubine Bressinger and his young clerk and narrator of the story, Helena Sedanka.

Together, they attempt to unravel a murder that is revealed to have farther-reaching connotations than either of them could’ve ever thought.

Richard Swan’s fantasy debut was initially something of a mixed bag.

Literature focused on solving some central mystery (especially murders) tends to induce in me far more apathy with adrenaline.

Simultaneously, I’m always on the lookout for fantasy stories that buck the typical mold (scheming nobles, warring nations, imminent dark lords, etc.), so a tale of a cop/inquisitor doling out justice in an episodic fashion served to uniquely pique my interest.

It’s at this intersection that both the novel’s strengths and weaknesses are most starkly displayed, as it never fully commits to either premise, electing rather to go off on several tangents.

Shortly after we are introduced to Lady Bauer’s waterlogged corpse and given a list of suspects, the audience is jerked in all different directions as interlopers from the outside world bring word of Templars, demons, the Justicar order, and plenty of other world-building details that distract from the insular murder mystery.

But while this might have proved infuriating for those hoping to see something like a fantastical Hercule Periot, for someone averse to mysteries such as myself, it proved a vital balancing act that kept me invested.

The focus of the novel shifts often enough that there is never once any danger of losing interest, but stays with the various duels, prosecutions, and intrigue just long enough that the audience does not feel anything was glossed over.

The only major exception to this is a mid-novel excursion into the realms of demonic horror that is easily the standout moment of the whole story.

The enigmatic demon that stalks the heroes during this portion proves far more engaging in two chapters than any of the human foes who take up much of the novel’s back half.

As rich a world as all this makes, one has to wonder if the modern fantasy credo to make all stories “epic” hurt this particular outing from Swan.

As much as I enjoyed working my way through this time, I can’t help but feel like in another world I absolutely devoured the short stories or brief novellas that told the story of Sir Konrad and his entourage with significantly more enthusiasm.

The Justice of Kings is a unique marriage of several disparate visions.

The union is pulled off with grace to be sure, but it is easy for one to see how letting each element stand on their own might have improved the story.

Here’s hoping the Tyranny of Faith serves to bring some much-needed precision to the empire of the wolf.

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About the Contributor
Lukas Luna-Arellano
Lukas Luna-Arellano is the co-community editor for Talon Marks. He plans to shore up his literary credentials while at Cerritos before transferring. He enjoys reading, working out, and listening to various types of metal.
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