THE JUSTICE OF KINGS by Richard Swan (@Richard_S_Swan) from @orbitbooks Out Tomorrow #BookReview #Fantasy

THE JUSTICE OF KINGS by Richard Swan.

Orbit. h/b. £12.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

Rumours of the Witch of Rill reach them as they draw close. Justice Sir Konrad Vonvalt and his retinue will find those guilty of Draedist worship and put an end to it in the name of the Sovan Emperor. As the empire grew over time, absorbing land, towns and titles along the way, so too did the Nema Creed, absorbing scripture, beliefs and practices into one faith.

Helena Sedanka, the justice’s clerk, is ever at his side to properly record events and document the emperor’s justice. Vonvalt’s taskman, Bressinger, is there to help with investigations, interrogations and whatever else his sword can assist with. The priest, Claver, and a donkey named the Duke of Brondsey complete their troop.

With events at Rill resolved, for now, anyway, on they travel, circuiting the empire to dispatch justice. News of murder from their next destination reaches them ahead of their arrival. Vonvalt’s presence is requested urgently. Lady Bauer is dead, and it would not appear to be at the hands of her husband. It will take all of our heroes’ investigative prowess and The Emperor’s Voice to unravel the strange events in Galen’s Vale.

The Justice of Kings is narrated by Helena, now aged and looking back to tell the story of her 19-year-old self in the service of Justice Vonvalt. With the experience of her years, she looks back at her own naïvety and questions the choices she made. It is a narrative technique we have seen before in those wonderful 1990’s epic fantasy series, and here it adds a delicate, human touch connecting the reader firmly to the dark brutality of Helena’s world.

There is a subtle magic system at work in The Emperor’s Voice, and Vonvalt uses necromancy to investigate deaths, so there is an underlying buzz of powerful forces that Helena can only yet glimpse threaded throughout the narrative. Add in a medieval world ruled by the powerful, corruption, swordplay and a heavy handful of grimdark, stony characters, and you have one of those utterly compelling and believable books that begs to be read in one sitting. This is going to be one of the standouts of the year.