4 out of 4 stars
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S. J. Hartland’s The Last Seer King continues the story that begins in The 19th Bladesman. In the aftermath of the battle that ends the previous novel, Val holds the keys to restoring his foster-son Kaell. Val follows the path to attempt restoring Kaell, but before he can reunite with Kaell, Val finds himself kidnapped and whisked away to an icy prison.
Kaell should be dead, but it seems that fate is not yet through with him. Even though he lives, Kaell finds himself in the body of the woman who betrayed him, put there by the closest thing he has to a father. Feeling betrayed by everyone who ever mattered to him, Kaell searches for Val, hoping to find a way to escape his current situation.
As Val and Kaell struggle to find each other, they must contend with sorcery, kidnapping, friends who become enemies, enemies that might just be friends, and a hidden puppet master that seems to be tugging at everyone’s strings.
Having read her first novel, I was looking forward to reading this sequel. The 19th Bladesman was full of action, intrigue, and a well-told story. As much as I loved her first book, I still found myself surprised by how much Hartland’s style improved with The Last Seer King. So often the second book in a series can be something of a letdown, but Hartland escapes that stereotype. On every level, Hartland succeeds brilliantly with creating an even better novel than her first.
Hartland’s dedication to her themes provides a hugely entertaining and enjoyable read. Each of her main characters in this book wrestled with the idea that secrets give others power over us. Hartland demonstrates her writing skill by allowing each character to grow organically and process the thematic elements in a unique manner. Even though her main characters discover some element of the same theme, the thematic elements never felt heavy-handed. Instead, it added to the strength of the story by creating a sense of clarity and united purpose in the novel.
Well-developed characters are another signature of Hartland’s writing, and she demonstrates her skill here once again. As a reader, I clearly understood each character’s motivations, even if Hartland did not reveal all of a character’s secrets. While she might hint at the important elements of a character’s motivations, those drivers tend to remain hidden until the moment in the novel where they become most important. Each character felt real because of the way they tried to avoid thinking about the difficult parts of their history until pressed by the situation. This style lends a greater sense of humanity to Hartland’s characters and allows readers to connect to the story at a deeper level.
Because of its well-told story and intriguing characters, I give The Last Seer King 4 out of 4 stars. Impeccable editing further cements this rating in my mind. Every element worked together to create a story that was practically perfect. Readers sensitive to sexual content, especially with overtones of rape or homosexuality should avoid this one. Fans of epic fantasy, particularly with a medieval flavor, will enjoy this novel. George R. R. Martin may need to watch out for this new author. Game of Thrones may have some competition on its hands!
The Last Seer King
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