Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.
Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.
Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.
Well, it looks like I missed the hype bus for this one. Legacy of Kings failed to engage me at the start and, unfortunately, the slow pace and predictable plot kept me from engaging throughout. This is a sort of “retelling” of the story of a young Alexander the Great, but with some minor fantastical element, namely magic. It’s like “history, but magic is real!” Awesome, right? Except when the characters are dryly drawn, the plot is ridiculously convenient, and there is nary a fresh twist or turn to be seen.
Clocking in at past 450 pages, this book could easily have done with a good bit of editing. There are seven POV characters, so if multi-POV makes you dizzy this is not going to be your thing. I normally love multi POV, but not here. The voices stretched so thin, and are so very repetitive. I feel like this book could have easily been 100 less pages if the characters hadn’t constantly and repetitively been internally monologuing. Each POV character would repeat their plot goal in every single chapter. It was to the point where I wanted to say each time, “Yes I understood your goal the first time you said it. You don’t have to repeatedly intone it in every single chapter.” I don’t know if it was thinking that switching between the POVs that readers would forget which character’s goals were which but you just need to have greater faith in YA readers’ ability than this. It made for a super tiring experience.
There are seven main POV characters. Alex, the noble heir to the warlord; Olympias, his ambitious and creepy mother who dabbles in magic. Kat, the village girl determined to take down the queen. Jacob, her childhood friend fighting to win Kat’s heart. Cyn, Alex’s half sister, determined to use any means to cut her own path through life. Hephaestion, Alex’s friend and brother of sorts who seems to be there only to serve as plot device. And Zo, a Persian princess and Alex’s would be fiancee. There are too many POVs and as long as the book is, the perspectives are stretched too thin and the characterization falls flat. This book would have greatly benefited from just one or two (mayyyyyybe three) POVs. For some of the characters, like Jacob and Heph, they seem to exist one dimensionally, to serve no purpose but to be there as part of their friend’s lives. The characters never feel like real people.
And oh my goodness, the vast majority of the plot is a plot of convenience and it’s ridiculous. The characters just move about doing whatever they want, whenever they want and the book caters to these whims. Kat wants to go to Pella to assassinate the queen. So she just leaves her town easy peasy and wouldn’t you know it? Finds herself immediately befriending Alex and getting invited to stay in the palace as a honored guest. What? How? At one point Kat leaves to go to Persia to learn some important magical lessons, and returns back to Macedon magically out of nowhere in the nick of time to fight in a battle. It’s absurd. Traveling in the ancient world took a good bit of time!
It’s fine enough when plot points are obvious but the story itself is entertaining. I mean, lord knows plenty of fantasy is repetitive, but it’s in the talent and skill of the author to make a rote story fresh. There are ostensibly mysteries and “reveals” in this story, but they’re so obvious and the rest of the story is so bland that it all adds up to a rather lackluster experience.
There’s the possibility that the third person present tense also bothered me irrationally. I suppose I’m mostly used to third person past when third person is deployed. The present tense was just…unsettling somehow. I wasn’t used to it and I found it rather distracting. I realize this is much more of a personal quirk than most but there you have it.
And this isn’t really the book’s fault but the marketing copy compares this to A Game of Thrones (I know, so many things do these days). This one might’ve had a better claim than most, but it pretty much stops at their both being historical fantasy with strong multi-POV emphasis. The depth of character, unpredictable twists, and willingness to take the story into dark and desperate places of GOT is entirely lacking in Legacy of Kings. And those books make the multi-POV work because there are several key characters, characters who are grand schemers, who know the ins and outs of politics and orchestrate political machinations who are not POV characters. If they were, the readers would know too much information and many great mysteries of the story would be redundant. In Legacy of Kings, all of the POV characters are these “information holders.” It’s not interesting to me when I see Heph struggling to figure out the strange goings-on around him when I already know, thanks to her POV, that these are Cyn’s manipulative machinations. It just makes me think that Heph must not be quite the brightest bulb if he can’t see that all of his troubles only started after Cyn took an interest in his life.
I get the sense, and maybe this is just me being cynical, that this is one of those times where I feel like an established author debuting in YA has a somewhat stereotypical idea of what YA is and then writes along those dotted lines. What romance there is seems tacked on just because that’s what you “do” in YA. Jacob loves Kat, and Kat has feelings somewhat maybe back. Alex and Kat have a “very mysterious connection.” Cyn seduces Heph, but Heph has feelings for Kat and she maybe somewhat has feelings back. There are ways to do this well, but it seems the sort of thing that you willingly sign up to when watching a CW soap, and not so much when you went to delve into historical fantasy.
And dramatic, out of place phrasing like this:
“‘Just go, Katerina.’ And she does, slipping away silently into the silver shadows. A moonbeam hits the spot where she stood. It looks achingly empty.”
I did not know that moonbeams had the capacity to look empty, yet alone achingly so. Apparently they do. If this doesn’t automatically stick out to you as ridiculous and melodramatic you might find yourself having a much better time with the text than I did.
I found this one a chore to get through and I admit I mostly skimmed the ending because I was so eager to just get it done with. The novel did earn some points where clearly a lot of care went into building the detail of this world, and there were times when characters seemed interesting enough to rise above the blandness of the plot. Overall, the story is slow, overlong and weighed down by too many perspectives from depthless characters. The total plot could have been effectively conveyed in half its page numbers. Historical fantasy fans should look elsewhere for their entertainment.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.