King's Justice (The Knights of Breton Court II)
by Maurice Broaddus
Angry Robots (2011)
I missed out on reading the first book in Broaddus' Knights of Breton Court series, King Maker, so when I won this ARC copy of the sequel via Goodreads, I wondered if I was going to be stepping into a book with no idea of the backstory. Thankfully, Broaddus sets the stage early on in the book by re-introducing the major players and the stakes leading from the first book into this one.
It also helps that the series is a non-too-subtle Arthurian legend with a modern day backdrop, so a little familiarity with who some of the characters represent and their relationships was a nice break.
Instead of King Arthur, we have King James White (I wonder if he is inspired from author Wrath James White, a collaborator with Broaddus on a novel called Orgy of Souls), along with his girlfriend, Lady G, and mentor of sorts and resident crazy man, Merle. The kingdom, as it stands, is a drug-infested section of Indianapolis called Breton Court. Gang violence has escalated to a degree that White has stepped in as a would-be peacemaker, but forces are at play to sabotage his efforts.
The cast of characters is a bit lengthy, but Broaddus kindly offers a list of the players at the beginning of the book, reminiscent to the start of stage plays. Definitely comes in handy when scenes switch and a new character enters, and I'm left wondering, "Wait, who is that again and in which gang or alliance are they connected?"
The fantasy element is a more understated than I had anticipated, but it is there and used to great effect. I mean, you can't have a real world setting and then have mystical battles waged in the middle a major American city. People might notice. Those with the magical abilities are relatively few, seemingly extensions from a bygone era with faeries and dwarves also making appearances.
Colvin, as the lead villain was an intriguing nemesis for King, as well as the contentious relationship he had with his sister, Omarosa (I still can't read that name without thinking of the crazy lady from The Apprentice). And some of the supporting characters are real treats, like Lee and Cantrell, a pair of mismatched police officers, and Naptown Red, a villain on the rise leading into the next book.
I liked the book, but I still think I would have had a better appreciation for it had I read King Maker first. So, I'll likely give this book a second chance when the third--and presumably final--book in the series, King's War, comes out. Then, I can read all three in a go and see the sweeping epic unfold in one fell swoop. I'm also even more inclined to look for Maurice Broaddus' other works, including the previously mentioned Orgy of Souls, his Dark Faith anthology, and another book with an enticing title, Devil's Marionette.