THE SHATTERED REALM OF ARDOR BENN by Tyler Whitesides.
Orbit Books. p/b. £9.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
King Pethredote is dead but the realm continued on after Ardor Benn changed the future and saved the world from catastrophe. Now, the sixth day of the ninth cycle brings a funeral but, of course, where Ardor Benn is involved, nothing is quite what it seems. The coffin houses the famous confidence trickster himself, his new name and his next prize – the Stalwart Heart which just happens to be pinned to the late General Nelbet’s uniform.
The problem with bringing in new sidekicks is that they cannot necessarily be trusted. Good job no one can ruse quite as well as Ardor. He has barely finished one job before another lands in his lap, and this one comes from a very unexpected source. The king may be dead, but someone has to rule Beripent. Ardor is about to have another royal encounter and get much more than he bargained for in his next grand scheme.
Portsend Wal may almost be a genius when it comes to working with Grit, but for now, he spends his days teaching Practical Grit Mixing even if a third of his students are absent today and the others rush off as soon as the lesson ends. All but two as it happens, and these two young, green but keen minds might be just what he needs for his new project. If the Prime Isless needs new Grit, then Portsend Wal is the one to make it happen.
Quarrah Khai turned her back on Ardor Benn and the great ruse they pulled off together but try as she may to put everything behind her it would seem that the past is not quite ready to turn its back on her yet. With a new employer from a most unlikely source and a lure that appeals to her quiet thieves’ sensibilities, perhaps this time it is Quarrah’s turn to beat Ardor Benn at his own game.
The Shattered Realm of Ardor Benn is a fantastic follow up to the first book, following Ardor and Quarrah as they dive into their new challenges with relish and find themselves in deeper water quicker than initially planned. Portsend and his storyline is a nice addition to take the worldbuilding to the next step, and some familiar characters from book one are a welcome addition to the cast.
Once again Whitesides delivers cunning play after cunning play and keeps us on our toes from start to finish with excellent pace, wit and plenty of spanners in the works along the way. Ardor and Quarrah balance each other off nicely in their shares of the narrative, and Portsend’s pages build the bigger picture as the Holy Isle did in the first book.
In this second instalment, Ardor once again leaves us with the promise of a very changed world to look forward to in the third Kingdom of Grit story. The Pekal dragons still lurk in the background holding potential for future salvation or destruction, Portsend’s discoveries open up a new avenue of potential triumph or disaster and Ardor Benn’s enthusiasm for alternately saving and dooming the world holds no limits. The series is a must-read.