Thank you very much to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Strap in folks, this one’s going to be rough.
Othrun was once Second Prince of the mightest kingdom in the world. Now he is a refugee, leading the last handful of survivors of his people into an uncertain future, after their great kingdom sank beneath the Shimmering Sea. Tasked with rebuilding his fallen empire on a strange land, surrounded by foriegn kings, Othrun has only his sworn knights, his determination, and his faith in the Single God to guide him on his quest to wipe out idolatry and pagan worship, and unite the continent under his rule. And with the aid of a mysterious spirit, he means to succeed.
Surrounded by battle, and caught between the plots of warlords fighting for supremacy, Othrun will be forced to confront betrayal, doubt, and pagan magics, if he wishes to save his people and become a king of legend.
I really wish I’d liked this more. There’s clearly a lot of thought, effort, and passion in this book and I absolutely commend the author for all they’ve accomplished. Unfortunately, this story just hit a sour note for me from the very beginning. Even as later chapters became a bit more interesting, it just wasn’t enough to undo my first impressions. Some readers may really enjoy this type of story and main character, but unfortunately I wasn’t one of them.
What I Liked
The World – One thing I will absolutely give this book is it’s in depth and incredibly detailed world building. There was clearly a lot of thought and effort that went into creating a complex history, society, religion, politics and pretty much every other part of a world you can think of. Othrun’s home kingdom is described with loving detail, right down to their finest vintages of wine. I almost wish I’d had the time to explore the streets and cities and lands myself by walking among the people like a tourist. The kingdom felt real, and I’m sorry we didn’t get more time to explore it.
The Character Building – Despite my dislike of the main character (which we’ll get into) I can’t deny that all the cast members were consistent and had enough personality to keep them distinct from each other. There is a big lack of women characters outside of the mother, wife, and seductress templates, but for the main cast at least they felt fully defined and solid people, even if I didn’t particularly care for them.
The Ending – By far the best part in this book was it’s ending. Not giving away any spoilers of course, but the build up and tension and cliff hanger feelings of the last few chapters were definitely a huge improvement. If the whole book had been like this, I would be talking about something very different.
What I Didn’t
The Main Character – I really, REALLY, disliked Othrun, almost from the first page of the story. I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews that you can have an unlikable protagonist and still have the audience root for them, but I just couldn’t get behind this guy. As I mentioned above, Othrun is still well written and well rounded with realistic flaws and traits. The problem for me is that he is written as an unrelenting zealot while always seeing himself as the noble hero. It was very hard to sympathize with him while he was disparaging anyone who wasn’t a part of his kingdom or religion, and I actively disliked him for the majority of the story. Maybe other readers can look past this, but I just couldn’t.
The Style – As I pointed out above, there is a lot of care and thought that has gone into this world, from the kingdoms to the peoples, and that’s always great to see. However, I found that there were long stretches of the book that were taken up by description of the lands, the traditions, and the history of the main character’s family. It was too much all at once, and I ended up feeling like I was listening to a travel guide instead of Othrun’s inner thoughts. There were a few spots where I had to go back and reread sections because I couldn’t keep all the facts straight in my head. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully interested in any and all lore about a fantasy world, but when it goes on for several pages (or chapters) and stops the story in its tracks, it just can’t hold my attention.
The Pacing – There are three parts to this book and all of the action is in the last one. Things happen throughout, of course, but the majority of the book relays the events to us like a history lesson. A civil war was breaking out between royal brothers that was dividing the kingdom on lines of law, religion, and kingship – and it ended up feeling hollow because we are told very early on that this is what destroyed the land, and the perspective only reinforces this point. This is my own personal preference, but I would have far preferred a full book on the downfall of the titular Drowned Kingdom, detailing every step of the conflict and the deeply personal stakes of everyone involved. Instead, it felt like a summary, and as a result the shock of the kingdom’s destruction was lost on me.
A Drowned Kingdom is full of imagination and passion, but unfortunately doesn’t pull it off in execution. As the first book in a planned series, I can absolutely see a lot of potential that could take it far, but unfortunately it just didn’t pull me in enough to make me anticipate a sequel.
Title: A Drowned Kingdom
Author: P.L. Stuart
Publisher: Independently Published
Date Published: February 2, 2021
Series: The Drowned Kingdom Saga
Warnings: Graphic violence, and death.
Thanks for reading everyone!