“Steeped in tragedy and hardship, mercenary Kian Valara wants nothing more than to hang up his sword. But he cannot go home yet. Against his better judgment, he agrees to take a spoiled prince into the Qaharadin Marshes, a treacherous place all sane men avoid.
After arriving at a deserted temple, the prince vanishes within. When a column of blue fire erupts from the temple and pierces the heavens, Kian rushes to help. What he finds emerging from the temple is not the prince, but a horror unleashed from the Thousand Hells.
Now Kian must draw upon all of his strength, courage, and skill to survive—because if he dies, the world dies with him.”
The God King is James A. West’s debut novel and the first in the Heirs of the Fallen series.
I’ve had the pleasure of not having been disappointed in any one of the five novels I read in May. The streak continued in June with The God King. There seems to be scant few novels these days that are able to grab my attention within the first few pages or chapters, and James A. West showed me that it was still possible.
Kian Valara is our hero, albeit very unwillingly. Kian’s an Izutarian, a northman from the land of Izutar. The northmen appear to be the same as in any other novel – from a snowy, frigid climate, tough, and with skin as white as snow. Kian’s a mercenary, selling his sword to the highest bidder, who in this case happens to be the prince of another kingdom, Varis Kilvar of Aradan. Kian, believing this to be just another job but with an extraordinary payout. He and his comrades, the stone-faced, noble-looking Azuri and the large, jovial Hazad plan to retire following the job, but they planned with no idea what the goal of their charge was.
Ellonlef is another primary character and a Sister of Najihar. The Sisters of Najihar are trained in all arts, from scholarly to martial, and Ellonlef is one year from completing her tenure. Our third primary character is Prince Varis himself. Varis’s chances of ascending to the throne are minimal, with his father and older brothers in line before him. He desires to change that and vanishes into a mysterious temple, beginning our story.
The first chapter involves the breaking of the prison of hell, or as the characters refer it, Geh’shinnom’atar. Geh’shinnom’atar is where the mahk’lar, the shadowy demons of the world were imprisoned. Peropis, Eater of the Damned, plays a major role in the release of the mahk’lar, which subsequently leads to the ascendance of the God King, hence the title.
Fantasy is rife with repetition, but most of us readers rarely seem to tire of it as long as the story is told well. West describes locations so that you can easily visualize them and writes situations in which you feel the doom and gloom of the story. Scenes with the mahk’lar are brilliantly done and very reminiscent of Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle in that they’re both very chilling. West is very convincing in his description and as the story progresses we are shown both sides of the conflict which made it very enjoyable. Kian begins the story as the unwilling hero, but he develops throughout the story, proving to us that he is more than just a tough mercenary. Ellonlef, through her training as a Sister, is a prime example of a strong female character in fantasy. In one fell stroke her tedious day to day life is shattered and she is hurled into the brutality of the world. She faces obstacles with courage and determination and she develops just as smoothly as Kian does.
The aspect that truly impressed me in The God King was the action. West proves himself to be a masterful wordsmith in describing the scenes so vividly that you can feel the sword nick Kian’s cheek or the heat of flames as they sear the earth around him. Combine the great characterization and the fantastic action sequences and you have a fast-paced, gripping read by a new author.
From the cover and the title James A. West’s The God King seems like a traditional fantasy novel with the stock unwilling hero or the grim swordsman and a very powerful enemy to overcome. The story is nothing new, but West tells it in such a way that makes it compelling enough for me to struggle to put it down. The God King is a dark fantasy novel worth reading and I’m eager for Wests’s future work.