Carolyn Cushman Reviews King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist

Raymond E. Feist, King of Ashes (Harper Voyag­er 978-0-00-726485-8, £20.00, 545PP, hc) April 2018. (Harper Voyager US 978-0-06-146845-2, $29.99, 466pp, hc) May 2018.

Feist returns with the first volume in the new Firemane fantasy series, centered on a land that was once five kingdoms, until the Betrayal, which saw the king of Ithrace, known as Firemane, betrayed by some allies in a war with a neighbor­ing kingdom. One of the barons who betrayed him, though, chooses in the end to protect the last surviving Firemane, a baby, sending him to the Coaltachin, a nation of assassins and spies, to be raised in secret. The novel follows the boy Hatushaly some 16 years later as he finishes his training, given to burning anger barely controlled, and unsure why he looks so different and gets spe­cial treatment. Meanwhile, a smith named Declan finishes his masterpiece and heads out into a world increasingly unsettled, with attacks by slavers and a rising monotheism that puts heretics to death. Both face battle, moral conflicts, and learn new things about themselves, their paths eventually crossing in a land preparing for a new war. It’s a mixed offering: the hidden heir and the smith with a destiny are fine old fantasy tropes, and Feist does a decent job adding interesting developments, but the romantic elements – particularly Hatushaly’s constant brooding over why Hava, this girl he trained with, disturbs him so much – and card­board villains get tedious.

Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.

This review and more like it in the July 2018 issue of Locus.
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