This is the sequel to The Gift Knight’s Quest, and readers will find it difficult to follow without having read the first instalment but not impossible. The land of Kensrik is in a state of flux; the ruling Kenderley family have been dethroned by a popular rebellion to be replaced by a representational government. But what will the erstwhile rulers and the nobility class do? Many are attacked and forced to seek sanctuary in the crown princess’ palace or flee. The princess herself, Chandra, is at a loss; she retains her wealth and her army but is unwanted by her former subjects.
However, when a mysterious invitation arrives to visit an unknown Kingdom, her curiosity is piqued and she sets sail accompanied by her personal fleet of ships, a good proportion of her army and the hero of the story, Sir Derek. All too soon, events turn sour as they realise the author of the invitation is intent on their destruction to pave the way for their conquering of Kensrik and neighbouring lands.
The first part of this tale is nicely constructed: we have political turmoil, a scheming sorceress, plotting rulers and uncertainty in the main characters. While the opening might be considered a little slow, there is enough build-up of tension and a complexity to the tale to intrigue. The story really kicks into gear when Chandra and Derek arrive in the mysterious city and they begin to suspect that all is not as it seems. At this point I was, with some reservations, looking forward to finding out how the plot would develop. However, it was the reservations which grew rather than my interest in the story and, unfortunately, I found it a struggle to get to the end of the book.
While author Dylan Madeley handles the story line well (no mean feat given the large number of characters and sub plots) and ensures that the character’s actions and motives are consistent and plausible, the writing style is to its detriment. My main issue is that there is too much dialogue and most of it is wooden. As much of the character development is dependent on the dialogue, the characterisation is quite weak; put simply, I really didn’t care what happened to any of them. In addition, the female characters are treated badly; why set up a story with two of the three main protagonists women and then barely involve them in what happens? Two key features of a good book are intrigue and emotional engagement; while this book has some of the former, it largely fails to deliver the latter.