June 27th, 2011


King's Justice

Maurice Broaddus' King's Justice, the sequel to last year's King Maker, continues the story of King James White, the reincarnation of King Arthur who's trying to clean up the streets of his native Indianapolis and unite the street gangs in a way that will stop the violence. He's a vigilante of sorts, except unlike Charles Bronson in Death Wish, he's trying to stop the killing, not add to it. To that end, he calls a meeting of the local gangs and offers to be their mediator for when things go bad. Of course, things go bad pretty fast, with Colvin, a half-fey gang leader, deciding to go rogue, and Dred, Morgana's son, plotting betrayal. Cue the shit hitting the fan, and armies of vicious red caps being conjured onto the streets of downtown Indianapolis.

I maintain that this is one of the most original and compelling modern fantasy series I've read, and freed from the constraints of having to establish the world in which it takes place, King's Justice has a faster pace than its predecessor, jumping right into the action. No less thrilling or authentic than its predecessor either, King's Justice left me eager to read the conclusion, King's War, when it comes out in October.

Unfortunately, Broaddus has the regrettable tendency to glide past, and sometimes skip over entirely, the good stuff. And by good stuff I mean character development. The reuniting of two estranged brothers, one a hardened criminal, the other a "knight" in King's crew, is the heart of the novel--or at least it should have been, in this reader's opinion. Instead, it's dealt with in two scenes, one of which is a rushed flashback to a short conversation, and I have to admit to feeling a little cheated by that. The same thing occurs when two characters illicitly fall in love, and betray their best friend by doing so. We're told more than shown that these two have a chemistry everyone but themselves can see, and I would have liked to spend more time with their characters to experience the blossoming desire between them, rather than simply having a secondary character remark on it once in an offhand scene. (It also happens in the extra short story included in the back of the book, where a character relates a ghost story to his friend and glosses over everything that will explain or foreshadow what follows.)

Of course, wanting to spend more time with the characters and learn more about their world is hardly damning criticism. It speaks highly of what Broaddus has created that I want more of it. In retelling the tale of Arthur, Broaddus has a lot of ground to cover in just three novels, but I'm hoping that when the events of the final volume unfold, they won't feel quite as rushed as these did.