Seven Princes review

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Seven Princes is John R. Fultz first Fantasy novel.  It was released in January 2012 and is the start of the Books of the Shaper trilogy that will be followed by Seven Kings and Seven Sorcerers.  John previously worked on several short stories and a graphic novel.
It is an Age of Legends. 
Under the watchful eye of the Giants, the kingdoms of Men rose to power. Now, the Giant-King has slain the last of the Serpents and ushered in an era of untold peace and prosperity. Where a fire-blackened desert once stood, golden cities flourish in verdant fields. 
It is an Age of Heroes. 
But the realms of Man face a new threat-- an ancient sorcerer slaughters the rightful King of Yaskatha before the unbelieving eyes of his son, young Prince D'zan. With the Giant-King lost to a mysterious doom, it seems that no one has the power to stop the coming storm. 
It is an Age of War. 
The fugitive Prince seeks allies across the realms of Men and Giants to liberate his father's stolen kingdom. Six foreign Princes are tied to his fate. Only one thing is certain: War is coming. 
Some will seek glory. 
Some will seek vengeance. 
All will be legends
Seven Princes is an example of conventional heroic/epic Fantasy. An evil is coming to the world and it's simply and literally evil. Its incarnations are found in the apparition of an ancient being from the void of immeasurable power and an empress thought long dead.  If the conventional adjective was to be removed from the epithet I affixed and even be replaced with original or surprisingly imaginative, these cruel beings ought to have some kind of motivation driving them to such extreme devotion toward death and destruction, which is not the case with this novel.  The only idea looming behind their behavior is raw power and control. I would have liked more depth and explanation concerning their inception, evolution and determination.

That being said, the epic struggles of the good guys could be the redemption for the novel.  Moreover, since it's a debut, it could be a somewhat clumsy start creating a nice setting for the next books. In any case, that's definitely not what I found in Fultz book. The so-called heroes react to the threat in a predictable manner, mostly so coming from lightly tested future rulers.

There is a plenitude of these lordlings; at least seven or so judging by the title. In the presence of several protagonists of note, I thought that the author would present very different points of view of a story intermixing the princes. That's indeed what is happening for the most part but the points of view frequently blend together. Vireon and Sharadza the young giants siblings, their cousin Andoses and the other human princes all have their individual personality but their narrative eventually feels all the same.  That's probably because they are all righteous to a certain degree and fighting evil at almost any cost.  With a deeper exploration in each case and a better focus on their disparities, some of them could have become more compelling.

As the story unfolds, we find out what I briefly mentioned before, the fact that the new ruler of Yaskatha, the necromancer Elhathym is completely unmatched in term of power. The forces that all the princes and their kingdoms can assemble are not even an argument against him and his collaborator in evilness, Ianthe the Claw.  To tip the scales, the protagonists will stumble on several sorcerers coming out of nowhere or in hiding to help them defeat the villains. Magic, at the same time blazing and boring is unleashed for a couple of more enlivening action sequence that are falling a bit on the short or brief side.

In term of world building, there is some work involved.  The race of giants, the various morphing sorcerers, the doomed and deathly spirits of Vakai each offer slightly more than the traditional Fantasy tropes, some variations. The cities and more specifically the throne rooms are thoroughly detailed and the people of each region have some kind of distinction. However, aside from the giant and human city of New Udurum, it looks like the tribes didn't mix much, there's not much semblance of interbreeding thought the ages or diversity of beliefs.  Sadly, there's a quick end to the inspiration found in the author world when we look at the terrain between the cities or forts. It seemed to me that it was completely empty aside from the cities sketched on the map (except for some dangerous monsters waiting patiently).

Fultz prose is substantially descriptive, even though it seemed to be circumstantial and the pace of the book is smooth and flowing most of the time. However, it's broken in a couple of instances when long journeys through the country are sped up.  I felt annoyed at the simplistic philosophical declarations of chivalrous intent found in the dialogues. I have read on other reviews that the writing of Seven Princes was reminiscent of good old pulp Fantasy. I think that comment is probably just and if that reference suits your tastes, you'll be moderately rewarded when reading the novel.

Some of my comments on the book may be a bit severe but with the crowd of authors I can find these days that push the genre to new horizons, I think that a classic or generic tale of good vs evil ought to give me more to chew on. Nonetheless, with a fluid but marginally encumbered prose and some creative elements to build upon, this book could quench some of your thirst.  Fultz has something in his hands that is not extensively exploited, typical but that still could turn out to become a series worth looking into in the future.

Technically, the Orbit books paperback edition cover is kind of cool with its flashy yellow that really stands out and the stylized and blurry characters. The book stands at 526 pages and a map (and I have it here) and dramatis personae are available.

Seven Princes review score :

Characterization.............   6.5 /10
World building...............   6.5 / 10
Magic system.................   7.5 / 10
Story..............................   6.5 / 10
Writing...........................   7 / 10

Overall (not an average) 6.5 / 10

John R. Fultz's Blog


Mark K said...

That artwork on the cover - again, I'm sure I recognise the artist. And having looked up in my Guild Wars 2 art book I am almost certain the artist is Richard Anderson.

You need to look this guy's work up, it's amazing, and I think you might agree that this is most likely his work :)

Phil said...

I think you are right Mark, I browsed Richard's work and it definitely looks like his style. I think that Mr. Anderson just became a favorist artist of yours truly.

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