City of Kings Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
War makes monsters and corpses of us all.
For generations the blooded have ruled the Wilds, cultivating a lawless frontier and bleeding the good folk dry. The Black Thorn, once the most wanted outlaw the world has ever seen, is set on stopping them, and bringing an end to the great game that oppresses them all.
Crucible is the only blooded fortress left, but not for nothing is it called the City of Kings. Its defences are unbreakable, its walls unassailable, all built so one hundred can hold back a thousand. Worse yet, the Black Thorn is running out of time and there are darker things hiding underground, looking to turn the city into a tomb.
City of Kings is a stand alone novel set in Rob J. Hayes award winning First Earth setting. It is designed to be read independently of the other books in the setting, and is a fast paced look at a kingdom on the verge of regime change.
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|Listening Length||11 hours and 51 minutes|
|Author||Rob J. Hayes|
|Narrator||Rosa B. Watkinson|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||April 25, 2019|
|Publisher||Rob J. Hayes|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #273,881 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#6,741 in Epic Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#9,121 in Horror Fiction
#15,188 in Dark Fantasy
Top reviews from the United States
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The story begins with a prologue wherein both the would-be conquerors and the Blooded clans attempt an unsuccessful parley. The peace attempts foiled, lead to the preparation of the siege of the city-fort called Crucible by Black Thorn and his army. Crucible is the home of the Brekovich clan and their head Niles Brekovich (think a Tywin Lannister like figure). However the Wilds have been now claimed under the leadership of The Black Thorn. What most folks don't know, is that the real brains & steel behind his rule is his wife Rose. Betrim "Black Thorn" Thorne is extremely happy with this arrangement as it leaves all the mental heavy-lifting, scheming and planning to Rose while he gets to fight which is more his sort of stuff. We meet again with the rest of his crew and since this is also set after the events of “Pre-emptive Revenge” [the short story featured in the GrimDark Magazine# 9], there have been some big personnel changes.
Henry is always present as Betrim's right dagger, still sharp and murderous as ever with even more scars. But her partnership with Pern has given a stable edge to her sharpness and she's even more deadly for it. Pern Suzku has been declared a Honin (after the events seen in The Colour Of Vengeance) and he can't seem to escape his fate from his Haarin clan. They will do everything to make sure Pern finishes what he couldn’t do before. There's also Anders who serves more than one master but is finally about to get to one up on his dad (the aforementioned Niles Brekovich) and the rest of his family. There are a few other new faces who have come aboard Rose's campaign to unite the wilds and this will be the final push to unite the wilds.
The story is set over a period of a week and it's a bloody one at that. Infact I would say that this book has outdone all of Rob's preceding titles in terms of action, blood, plot twists, and resolution. City Of Kings is the last book for a while in the First Earth saga and this standalone title has a solid finality to its ending. Talking about why I enjoyed this book, starting with the characters: Betrim, Rose, Anders, Henry, Pern are all fascinating personalities and even after two-three books featuring the aforementioned characters. Rob J. Hayes manages to keep them multi-faceted and it's still refreshing to read about them. There are newer personality dimensions to be discovered and older problems surface. This is brought refreshingly to the fore as we get to see characters arcs play out (beginning from The Colour Of Vengeance) and there’s a finality to all of their personal arcs.
There's also the plot pace and twists which keep this story from appearing as a staid one or even a stereotypical siege storyline. What I mean is that most readers expect certain tropes in a siege story and the author conveniently sidesteps them. Things get very, very intriguing and even bloodier than I ever expected (this after the savage climaxes of both The Ties That Bind trilogy and The Best Laid Plans duology). But to even hint at them lie spoilers so I will be silent... Safe to say while this is a siege storyline, events that occur are far, far more complex. Beginning with the underlying question that has been lurking throughout the previous five books, why are the dead returning as zombies all over the place?
Rob's world is a dark one and it's safe to say that it isn't a fair one. However because of his incredible writing, it's a world that I want to read more and more about. The mysteries which are present get revealed in small increments and there are bigger questions arising. Each of the previous books have revealed at the mystical background about the world and the players into the mix. We get another solid indication of one side in this book. It becomes apparent how big of a game the author is playing with his readers as the First Earth saga unfolds. The next series will be a trilogy set within the kingdom of Acanthia and is most likely set a few years after the events of The Fifth Empire Of Man and City Of Kings.
What didn’t quite work for me, possibly next to nothing! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it brings to close a lot of events that have been in motion from the author’s debut. To a certain degree, I think while this is a standalone story that can be enjoyed by readers completely unfamiliar to Rob’s work. I honestly feel readers will enjoy it the most if they read it after the Ties That Bind trilogy. So this IMHO isn’t a through & through standalone and that’s my only negative about this incredible read.
CONCLUSION: City Of Kings is a brutal story for its characters, the readers and for all the people mentioned within. It spares no punches (emotional, or literal) and truly showcases what happens before a regime change. How brutal it can be and how much of an iron will is needed to bring this about. In this regard there's one character who truly shocks and this is in spite of knowing their past deeds. Credit to the author for pushing the envelope even when he knew that the readers might not agree with his characters actions. City Of Kings truly cements Rob J. Hayes as a writer that combines epic and grimdark fantasy in the best possible way.
Rob Hayes does an excellent job of balancing action, intrigue, and character development. He filters in details from their past exploits, so you definitely have a sense that these characters have been through a lot together, but here they are on a new mission: to conquer the impenetrable walls of the City of Kings.
This is a siege story, with many battle scenes, offset by subtle moments of taking risks and finding fortitude. The author brings an artful quality to some really horrifying scenes that are both ruthless and beautiful. There's a lot at stake in this book—on both sides of the walls—and it builds to an excellent climax on a grand scale.
The story genuinely surprised me in the end. I did not accurately predict who would or would not survive the book. Though we find resolution in most of the storylines, there are certainly seeds planted for future problems to arise.
City of Kings is an exciting and dramatic read I recommend to all fans of dark fantasy.
In this standalone book set in the First Earth world we rejoin Rose & The Black Thorn as they endeavour to rid the wilds of the last of the blooded folk. And they go about it in the most bloody of ways. War is a dirty business! Parts had me cringing and others cheering and I devoured the book in a few hours. Fast paced with fabulous characters.
This work can be read without having read any of the other First Earth books but I'm glad to have read the Ties the Bind trilogy as it enriches the reading experience.
Read them all! This series teaches you to get attached to pulpy grim-dark characters, then it rips them from the page (along with your hopes and dreams), and sets it all on fire. Leaving you to clean up the ashes.
10/10 this book teaches you how to raid a fort.
Top reviews from other countries
Secondly, i found the overall story very, very simple. It read like a blood thirsty, over sexualised, Drenai novel. I found this surprising after having read The Best Laid Plans, as i thought that was brilliant, with a solid plot, and rich characters. City of Kings seemed to try too hard to be graphic and violent, which character development sacrificed.
Of course, had i read The Ties That Bind first, i may have felt differently, but as it was i didnt really feel any connection to anyone - i didnt care, i didnt 'know' any of them, and as such i found it a slog to read at times.
I am loathed to down rate this however. I read this straight after reading Scott Lynchs Gentlemen Bastards afterall.
That said, this is advertised as a stand alone, and i would argue that it isnt, and the previous books need to be read in order to get a feel for the characters. As such, i can only give this 3 stars for now. I will certainly read The Ties That Bind trilogy, as they sound way more complex and interesting plot wise, and because i want to know about all these past experiences, which i assume [hope] are covered.
Perhaps then i can reread this and look at it from a different and fresh perspective.
It is a very, very good audiobook production, marred from perfection by just a few duff words.
I enjoyed the novel, it certainly mangled up the characters in a way Season 8 of GOT seems to have adopted - in how to get your army decimated and drop the main characters into it.
Interestingly I'm not sure I have a favourite character, as they all had their moments and there are several scenes of utter barbarity to keep Grimdark fans entertained and up the ante on Anna Stephens' Hammertime. I have to admit, I expected the hand, but the hostage scene was especially clever as a shock tactic and how it influenced the end of the novel, even anticipating someone not staying down.
What I especially enjoyed, was how the ending wrapped the book up. With the pirate duology, the ending was abrupt - a bit too much, too lean. With City of Kings the novel had a natural conclusion, with a typical drastic twist and it worked for me much better (without feeling indulgent) as a reader. The end execution scene went on a little long as the only criticism, with the lack of a perfect happy ever after landing a healthy dose of realism and creating a wealth of future opportunity.
Many indie books get hyped up and finish flat, this one comes across as more understated, but do not underestimate the polish and quality of writing as this one is a rosy gem hidden within some grubby hands.
It also means I have to get off my arse and read the author's initial trilogy as I'm now curious about the backstory. It is a nice problem - but I need more hours in the day. Cracking stuff from author and narrator both.
For the people who pick this up as an individual book, well its ok but there are benefits if you read the series.
I would give it 3.8 stars if I could simply because there are some places I don't quite understood why the story took a turn that way and it is not as refined as the first few books in the series.
Might be some spoilers ahead, just warning you
So yes the Black Thorn and gang return big time with most of the gang from The Wilds or whomever left after all the battles that took us to the point of the story
The whole book is about a war that is to take one city I think to dedicate one book for the whole ordeal is too much for me, ok I understand how important this might be in the story line for this is a game changer event in this universe and it was inevitable after the Best laid Plans series stories concluded.
I loved how the story describes of the reality of war and the need to survive the time slows down to the next breath and the next person to kill or get killed (Henry at the gate) But its getting tedious at times, I would have liked to read about whats going on in Chade, who left in charge, whats happening with the Arbiters (there is not a single arbiter in the story) or some witty silly things to lighten the mood like when Anders waiting by the gate and his crew coming up with a stone throwing competition. More like that would have earned a fine 4.5 stars from me
The big picture is that The Wilds will turn out to be independent and no so wild anymore and there is a pirate/merchant kingdom that is allied with the "Kingdom" of the wilds but its not entirely clear of whats gonna happen next in the story, Black thorn doesn't want to be a king that is clear.
REAL SPOILER ALERT
Few things bothered me
I would have loved if there was an alternative way to get to the gate fight and not just simply Rose insisting on throwing half of her forces away. And its The Wilds, you got more untrained people but the army was behaving like they were proper trained army.
Szuku's story is a bit contradictory. His from a clan of some sort of super ninja samurai uber warriors, best in the world second to maybe a blademaster, hand picked not as good but not far off. This clan gets wiped out by a single necormancer... the story goes on and the that same necromancer gets killed by Szuku a bunch of mercenaries from five kingdoms ... doesn't make sense. And then there is his love interest with Henry. Why did it turn out this way in the end? Henry didnt even stab him its confusing to me.
I started to read the "pre emptive revenge" short story but I kinda stopped after few pages cos well I had enough of siege and warfare ect..its not interesting to me. I might come back to it at later time
Henry the Red
My favorite character in this book, she goes through hell and back emotionally and physically, she is being awesome murderous little bitch she is. I would love to know her backstory
There other things but I don't want to write negatives too much because its a good tale worth reading by all means
I still prefer Hayes' most excellent "The Ties That Bind"-trilogy and hope he will continue writing in that vein, but among the siege novels I've read this is in the top ten.
Highly recommended, if you can tolerate (very) dark.
Memo to self: must read Hayes-novels I haven't read yet.
Mr Hayes has excelled himself with these books, a brilliant author with an amazing mind.