The Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Where is TOR/Macmillian when we need them?
This is a book that should absolutely be under TOR. It's that good. For those that don't know TOR/MacMillian is considered the top fantasy publisher (with Orbit right on it's heels) in North America. And Josie Jaffrey's book would fit in perfect with their style and format of books. I'd also love to see some tweaks made by an editor at a large publisher as that would vault The Gilded King into five star territory.
Fantasy books may seem like they are always based on the new worlds or situations created to those who haven't read too many of them. But those of us who have read more than we can count in the fantasy genre know that the best novels have strong characters and an interesting world that is along for the ride. The Gilded King is all about the characters. We have our (typical) slave girls, a vampire who isn't cruel (my Buffy self wants to write soul here, lol), and a vampire who is searching for someone in the Red. Between them we get the story of why the Blue exists, what the Red is like and what might happen if the two meet. Along the way we experience questions about morality, choice, and devotion. What would you risk to free yourself? And what would you risk to find someone?
There's a lot of lore and history to learn here. You also have to quickly catch on to the set-up. In a nutshell, there is virus that infects humans and supernatural alike (the supernatural are more or less vampires and zombies but different names) but changes them in different ways. The 'Blue' is an area that is free of this virus with a severe class set-up. The 'Red' is more or less everything outside the 'Blue' that is more wild and deadly (so the Blue say). The use of commonly known 'monsters' like vampires and zombies with a twist is brilliant. We don't need to learn a whole new type or breed of human; instead we just need to learn the twist that Jaffrey has given her variation. And of course figure out the new names she's given them. I'm not telling you'll have to read it!
But not Perfect
I've been told recently that I am a tough reviewer and rater. I suppose that were I to consider that this is an indie published book I might give it 5 stars because it is excellent for being indie. But I refuse to rate books at different levels just because. I want to keep a standard for only rating the highest at 5. So here's the thing, Jaffrey is clearly a talented writer and I am really looking forward to more of the Sovereign series; as well as more writing in any realm!
What The Gilded King needs is a little bit of massaging in the middle, a little more connective tissue early on (I will admit to being confused on a couple occasions with the lore; and not in the way in which a reveal creates but because I just missed something), and finally just a wee bit of editing from a top professional. If these three things were tweaked this would be a story that could easily rival the likes of C.S. Friedman.
This is an exciting new voice in fantasy/paranormal genre. Not urban supernatural and not full fantasy; but instead somewhere in the middle and unique in it's own way. I just bought the second book and eager look forward to diving back into the world that Jaffrey has made. If you want vampires with a different taste and zombies inside a beautiful fantasy world and feel then The Gilded King is definitely for you.
I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
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