Kings of the North by Elizabeth Moon

Published by Del Rey
Hardcover ISBN 978-0-3455-0875-1
March 22, 2010          
478 Pages


Elizabeth Moon continues her return to the world of Paksenarrion with Kings of the North, the second installment of the Paladin’s Legacy trilogy. The world and characters are seamless parts of the greater whole and Moon does a great job of keeping that connection essential over the course of the novel.

Having firmly established himself as King of Lyonya, half-elven Kieri Phelan is beset by Pargunese enemies who wish to destroy his land, the Lady, a spiritual Elf (and Kieri’s grandmother) who is Kieri’s co-ruler, and the pressure to marry in order to keep the royal linage flowing.  These three conflicts converge over the course of the novel much to Kieri’s initial consternation.

Kieri isn’t the only character dealing with stressful problems, recently anointed Duke Dorrin learns of an enchanted crown as her own King Mikeli is nearly assassinated. Further complicating matters for Dorrin is the enchanted crown, as well as ring, urge Dorrin to wear them. Additionally, a member of that ever present Thieves Guild, Arvid tangles with a mischievous dwarf who has stolen earth power from a gnome and tries to steal the enchanted regalia. Arvid and Dattur (the gnome) form a friendship of respect out of their problems with the dwarf, which grows over the course of the novel.  

Early in the novel, potential princess visit Kieri in the hope of becoming his betrothed and mother of his children.  Kieri has no interest, partially because he was married once, and more so because he wishes to marry out of love rather than for a simple union.  One of the potential mates the Pargunese girl Elis, turns out to have murderous, albeit half-feigned and reluctantly murderous, intentions.  When Kieri speaks to Elis and eventually her father, Torfinn, a clash of wills is unavoidable.  However, and this is where I think Moon really does some great things in the book, the two rulers actually talk rather than fight. Torfinn is initially taken aback by Kieri’s eventual proper treatment of him and the shedding of preconceived notions on the part of both men came across as genuine, honest, and helped to keep the narrative flowing nicely.

As mentioned earlier, Kieri does not rule Lyonya alone, for his Elven grandmother the Lady rules alongside him.  Through the course of the novel, the Lady becomes more distant, easy to anger, and less helpful than she should be.  This mirrors the shaky relationship between humans and elves in the world. As Kieri realizes he may have found the woman to marry, he presents her to the Lady only to be shot down once again, further angering the new King and driving his potential wife to leave in favor of keeping the peace.  What she finds, after leaving the King’s realm, is something older and more powerful than she, or anybody, could have ever imagined.

Moon has my attention with this series, she does terrific things with character, particularly characters from opposite ends of an ideological divide coming together and resolving some of their differences.  The magic plays an important part, but it is by no means over done. The fantastic races and other elements come across as just part of the greater whole in an organic fashion rather than simply to say “Hey look – a dwarf and a gnome!” I wouldn’t recommend this book without having read Oath of Fealty, but conversely, since I would recommend Oath of Fealty, I would recommend Kings of the North as a must read.  Thus far, both books have worked very well building towards a larger story which worked for me very well especially since I haven’t yet read The Deeds of Paksenarrion (even though I have it on the ever-growing reading pile). 

High recommendation with the caveat that the reader should really pick up Oath of Fealty first.

© 2011 Rob H. Bedford

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