As plague and famine scourge the Winter Kingdoms, a vast invasion force is mustering from beyond the northern seas. And at its heart, a dark spirit mage wields the blood magic of ancient, vanquished gods. Summoner-King Martris Drayke must attempt to meet this great threat, gathering an army from a country ravaged by civil war. Neighboring lands reel toward anarchy while plague decimates their leaders. Drayke must seek new allies from among the living-and the dead-as an untested generation of rulers face their first battle. Then someone disturbs the legendary Dread as they rest in a millennia-long slumber beneath sacred barrows. Their warrior guardians, the Sworn, know the Dread could be pivotal as a force for great good or evil. But if it’s the latter, could even the Summoner-King’s sorcery prevail?
Awhile back, I read the Chronicles of the Necromancer series by Gail Z. Martin. Devoured them would be more accurate. I fell in love with those characters and that world and couldn’t get enough. I finally figured out that those same characters are in this new series. Though Martin says this new series, Fallen Kings Cycle, stands alone, it really follows the Chronicles of the Necromancer series, with the same world and same main characters, with a few additions. You could theoretically read The Sworn without having read the Chronicles of the Necromancer series, but I wouldn’t recommend it, since you’ll be missing a lot. That being said, this review will contain spoilers for the Chronicles of the Necromancer series.
The events of The Sworn pick up six months after Chronicles of the Necromancer. Plague has beset the Winter Kingdoms. Dark mages are robbing graves and whispers of very evil magic permeate the land. Some characters we know and love from the first series are major players in this book. Jonmarc, mercenary-turned-Lord of Dark Haven is busy taking in refugee vayash moru (vampires), and vyrkin (essentially werewolves, although their shifting does not seem to have anything to do with the full moon) who have fled their homes because humans blame them for the plague. His wife Carina is getting ready to have twins, and Jonmarc worries about raising a family in troubled times. Tris and Kiara are preparing to have their first baby in Shekerishet, capital city of Margolan. We don’t see much of Kiara or Carina, since they are getting ready to be moms. In addition to Tris and Jonmarc, Carina’s twin brother Cam in another important character in this book. He is the champion of King Donelan, King of Margolan’s neighbor Isencroft and Kiara’s father. We also meet a new character, Jair, prince of Dhasson, who rides with The Sworn and his shaman-wife Talwyn for six months of the year. The Sworn made an ancient pact to protect the barrows and crypts throughout the Winter Kingdoms, and are some of the first to notice that graves are being robbed and bodies are being stolen for a nefarious, evil purpose. The final new character, and only major female character (at least the one female character who tells the story from her perspective) is Aidane, a serroquette, or ghost whore. She can be possessed by spirits, and hears their voices even when they are not possessing her. She gains important information from them throughout the story and becomes respected and well-treated, even by those who at first think she is nothing more than a common whore.
There is a lot to say to summarize this book, and I’ve only touched the bare minimum, because many different things happen. Each character is working in isolation, or I should say without the other main characters present, and they are all eventually realizing they are fighting the same thing. Watching all the groups figure things out and draw the same conclusions is neat. I missed having all the main characters together and interacting with each other, like they did in the previous series, but getting to know them in this different way was interesting too. I liked the new characters as well, especially Cam, who we met in the last novel but didn’t know much about. We learn much more about his story, and I really came to like his personality. I did wish there was more of a female presence. There were some cool female characters like Talwyn, but we only heard the story from Aidane’s perspective, and while I didn’t dislike her, she wasn’t anything special. I missed Kiara and especially Carina.
The problem with this story was it was one of those novels that sets you up for the next one. It kept building and building to something big that you knew was going to bring most if not all of the characters back together, but it never got there. By the end, they were on the brink of war, but there was no major action. Lots of dramatic prophesying and determining of what all the dark omens mean, and threats about the end of the world. Lots of character development, which I did like. But by the end I just wanted the battle to come already. It was not necessarily a cliffhanger ending, but the whole thing made me want to read the next book, The Dread, right away.
This would be a great series for people who like high fantasy and worlds filled with magic, spirits, and supernatural creatures. The characters are realistic and you can easily connect with them and become emotionally invested in their lives. Just don’t forget to read The Chronicles of the Necromancer first.