March 13, 2012

Rabid Reads: "King's War" by Maurice Broaddus

King's War (Knights of Breton Court #3)
by Maurice Broaddus
Angry Robot Books (2012)
ISBN: 9780857661319

After I finally read the first book in this trilogy (I read the second installment, King's Justice, first since I got it before King Maker), I was ready to dive into the final showdown on Breton Court. Reading a series out of order usually comes with some peril, so I was a little hesitant how much trouble I'd have getting into the story even though I'd counted the second book among my ten favorites last year despite having skipped the first at the time.

I'd retained enough in the year plus since I'd read King's Justice to know King James White's quest to bring peace to Breton Court and rally his "knights" has basically fallen apart at the seams, leaving his nemesis Dred and his cohorts from the Phoenix Apartments to capitalize and make his move to dominate and bring even more tyranny to the Indianapolis inner city. King is not only down on himself, but brokenhearted after discovering Lady G cheated on him with right-hand man, Lott. Lady G and Lott, despondent over their betrayal to King, go their separate ways, each punishing themselves in different ways. Meanwhile, crazy ol' Merle tries to salvage the situation and keep destiny on track, while King's son, Prez, has aspirations of following in his father's footsteps and proving his worth to the cause by striking out on his own to infiltrate Dred's crew.

Again, the book focuses less on a single character like King, instead offering a mosaic of the community, shifting from one character to the next. It can be disorienting on occasion, but when ample time is dedicated to one character or one scene, the story progresses with a riveting pace. And just like the previous two books, it's the supporting characters that steal the show. Heck, there are times when I find the whole Arthurian allusion inconsequential, because the people populating Breton Court are so engaging on their own I don't feel bothered by my tenuous grasp of the whole King Arthur connection. And the supernatural elements are subtle most of the time, though Dred's abilities grow and a couple other characters offer up some magical madness.

Prez was pretty engaging this time around, as he tried to become a spy of sorts by getting involved with the gang activity on the Phoenix side of things. Naptown Red, who didn't have quite the showing I was expecting after the conclusion of King's Justice, still managed to steal the show in several of the scenes he was in. Then, Omarosa and her malevolent manipulations were in their full splendor leading up the climax. Plus, Lott had an interesting turn, essentially hitting the streets like a guy with a death wish, a bit like a suicidal Charles Bronson in at least one scene.

I'm not sure if the book offers the kind of conclusion readers expect from the conventional urban fantasy novels, but Maurice's trilogy is anything but conventional--and if it is, then someone point me to those books, please. Dialogue, keen sense of history through the setting, and fully fleshed relationships help make this novel (and the series) stand out from the pack. Now that Maurice is finished with Breton Court--for now--I'll be keeping an eye out for his next project.

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