I do not quite recall how I stumbled across D.P. Woolliscroft a month or so ago, but boy, am I glad that I did. Actually, belay that, it may have been via the Kindle Scout program. Nevertheless, I’ve gotten to read two of Woolliscroft’s creations now – the novelette Of Buccaneers and Bards (which is set in the same world, and provides backstory), and the just-released Kingshold. For a fan of the fantasy genre, this ticked a lot of the right boxes for me.
For starters, you’ve got a band of misfits (complete with adventurers that could be mistaken for thieves and some magic users and a bard) coming together in a city that is controlled by the guilds, including the totally legal, totally above-board assassin’s guild. Why do they come together? Well, you see, the last king and queen were just offed (by the resident advisor and chief mage, Jyuth), and now instead of declaring a new king (which he’s done for centuries) it’s time for an election.
That last sentence there is the setup for the book that starts things thrumming along. For a while, you do juggle some separate storylines (till about the 40% mark or so, according to my Kindle) until the crew comes together. Where does that happen, you ask? Well, where all good medieval fantasy meetups happen – in the tavern! So, yes, there are plenty of fantasy tropes in play here, but I’m ok with that. Here, it’s like a comfortable, well broken-in jacket, rather than feeling like a crutch to help things along.
This is, in large part, due to where things diverge from what we’ve seen before. For starters, magic seems to work slightly differently here (with reliance on some powerful gems and meditation), and even the central bard – Mareth – seems to have a touch of magic to his minstrel ways. These are things that are slowly hinted at, and once you’ve started to figure it out, then Woolliscroft ends up explaining things, which I liked. Some books I’ve read will not explain anything at all, and just ask you to figure it out. I’m ok with doing some mental sleuthing and accounting while I read, but I also like having confirmation of those assumptions at some point.
The world building happens in much the same way. You start out in Edland (which is an island nation), and then you start hearing about their rivals and another unexplored continent (where some of the protagonists in Kingshold originally started from). At the same time, as the politics of things are explored, you see how the capital city is functioning, and how the various guilds and parts of the city are interacting and what they, well, run. This also extends to the ragtag band that comes together – you meet them, see them start in on the city, and then start learning bits and pieces of their stories. This was particularly well done, and did not fall into any of the pitfalls that can sometimes hold a “team up” scenario back. Enough is explained to keep you happy, but there’s still more hidden that can explored later.
I also want to give Woolliscroft some props for how things are organized. His chapters keep the focus to a single thread of the storyline (helpful when the team isn’t together), and things are managed into smaller chunks. This was super-convenient for being able to read in small bursts, and not having to leave off in the middle of a chapter and hope you can remember what just happened in the scene. Of course, you have to remember what happened in the book as you read it, but the chapter breaks make clean stopping points, and for me were a way to compartmentalize things. At the end of the day, I found Kingshold to be a rather entertaining book, and look forward to the next installments – not just for a continuation of the stories, but also to see how some of the unanswered questions get resolved. If you like the fantasy genre, this one is definitely worth a read.