Earthquakes rock the kingdom of Armania. The king responds with sacrifices to the gods. His advisors claim the Five Woes and the end of the world are upon them. Prince Wilek believes there must be another solution besides blood shed in sacrifice to angry gods. He and his companions embark on a journey to save the kingdom before the quakes swallow the land. Along the way, they find an empress in need of rescue. A priestess whose goddess demands the ultimate sacrifice from her, and a prophetess who speaks of salvation for the people.
I’ve been a fan of Jill Williamson’s writing since her debut novel, By Darkness Hid. (If you like fantasy and haven’t read it, I recommend the whole Blood of Kings series!) King’s Folly, the first novel in the Kinsman Chronicles, takes us back to the very same story world in which the Blood of Kings books take place, only years earlier.
I’m always a little nervous to revisit something that expands on an old favorite. Truth be told, the first quarter of the story felt a little slow to me. There are LOTS of characters and relationships referenced, though not all of them are deeply important to the story. There is a character glossary, but I found myself not referring to it. (I tend to be too lazy to zip back and forth when I’m reading ebooks. If there’s a map or glossary in a paperback, I’m much more likely to make use of them. But I digress.)
That said, once I read past that first part, I really began to be hooked on the story. I loved Wilek, even from the beginning. I think I felt like I kept waiting for him to do something – he seemed sort of trapped by his own passivity and sense of duty. The situation with Lebetta really lit a fire in him, and I felt like suddenly, the story sprinted forward.
There are some great characters that simply won’t get enough airtime in review. I loved Kal and the prophetess. I found Charlon, the escaped slave turned acolyte, to be a really compelling character, too. And of course Trevn and Mielle!
I’m really glad I read this book. I found it to be a lot darker than By Darkness Hid. After reading the note from the author on why she chose some of those themes (see my reference below under spiritual content), I think including them makes sense. But the darker themes may make the story better suited to older readers.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
There are some references to sex, but no descriptions or the event. Some members of the royal family have concubines and/or multiple wives. A woman who escaped from prostitution (we only know this from some hints at her past life) is told she must seduce a man in order to become pregnant.
In Wilek’s kingdom, they are expected to worship five gods. His father’s favorite, Barthos, demands human sacrifices. The king is happy to comply, and once even offered one of his own sons.
Mantics use power over a shadir, or spiritual creature, to perform impossible feats. In some places, these practices are illegal. In others, powerful mantics rule over others.
One of the gods is known as Arman (readers of the Blood of Kings books will be familiar with this name.) Arman demands total devotion, forsaking all other gods, and calls himself a Father God.
Williamson describes the spiritual elements of The King’s Folly as being inspired by stories from the Old Testamant, a time during which God’s people often turned to idols only to bear disastrous consequences. In this novel, following Arman becomes like following the Christian God.
Wilek is forced to attend ceremonies involving human sacrifices. He does not witness the sacrifices being consumed, but hears sounds from far off. Several fights take place between characters and enemies or assassins. A woman is found murdered.
Mantics ingest poison as part of rituals of power.