Tuesday 14 March 2017

Quests of the Kings, Robert Evert

"I want someone who wants something. Something he's willing to work hard for. Something he'd dedicate his life trying to get, you know?"
Across the realms, the kings' quests captivate the imaginations of nobles and commoners alike. These dangerous competitions pit the most daring adventurers against each other as they compete for riches and glory for their kingdoms.  
Plain and ordinary Natalie, a sixteen-year-old peasant girl, loves listening to stories about famous adventurers, but the thrilling action of the kings' quests seems far removed from her everyday life of mucking out stables and working every odd job she can find to support her siblings and disabled mother. However, after a violent run-in with Brago, a ruthless adventurer who believes Natalie is a threat to his mission, she is dragged unwillingly into the latest contest. 

1 / 5 

Frankly, I found Quests of the Kings to be rather boring. Natalie, the main character, is all over the place in terms of personality, there's a lot of sexist attitudes to wade through (the world, not the author's opinions, per se), and the plot doesn't really pick up until about half-way through. The main idea is that Natalie runs afoul of an adventurer, Brago, who is on a quest to uncover a golden harp. He threatens her life and she seeks safety with another adventurer, Sir Edris.

Natalie is an okay character for the first chunk of the book: she's hardworking, trying to support her struggling family. She doesn't much like men (and reminds us of this fact every few pages) - given the world Evert has constructed, I can't much blame her. Very early on in the book she gets beaten up quite badly and everyone she meets implies it's her fault for getting on the wrong side of a noble man. Charming. Somewhere along the line, however, she alternates between crying all the time and brandishing knives at people whilst going on quests. Natalie spends most of the book either in grief or stabbing people.

"Well," Hadley said hesitantly, "you could work on a few things. Your hair, for example."

The plot is easy to follow and the idea of adventurers on quests has some potential. I was enjoying this book the most when it focused on the hunt for the golden harp and there were a couple of nice puzzles that the characters had to solve. However, the rest of the plot was rather dull and not-suspenseful, most of the "twists" being rather obvious. My main gripe, however, is that literally everyone takes Natalie and Artis, her male friend, to be lovers. Literally everyone comments on this. Or tells Natalie how to dress more feminine, or how to wear her hair, or to get a different job (she mucks out stables). Even her friends do this. A lot. Speaking of which her two female friends are bit one-dimensional and vanish from the plot fairly quickly.

"And just how many women have come here, beaten up?" Natalie demanded, hands upon her hips. Borist leaned heavily on the table, "One is too many, isn't it?"

Creating a world with rampant sexism is fine, but there has to be some kind of critique around it. The closest we got was Natalie going "ugh, I hate men" every few pages. Reasonable reaction, but not really a critique. Whenever she did make some sort of insightful comment it was met with a "not all men" response, which she promptly agreed to, thus destroying any kind of progress made. The quote above is one of the better criticisms. Which is a shame, because the basic idea behind Quests of the Kings isn't bad. 

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book.

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