The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

If there is no difference between a fantasy novel and a fantastical one, there should be. Richard Swan’s novel The Justice of Kings is a vastly different enterprise from Ken Follett’s Never, which is an epic tale of the fanciful. Richard Swan’s book is epic in size but certainly not in value. It weakens the whole concept of the fantasy novel.

The advertising blurb tells us that The Empire of the Wolf simmers with unrest. Rebels, heretics, and powerful patricians all challenge the power of the Imperial throne. Only the Order of Justices stands in the way of chaos. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is the most feared Justice of all, upholding the law by way of his sharp mind, arcane powers, and skill as a swordsman. At his side stands Helena Sedanka, his talented protégé, orphaned by the wars that forged the Empire. When the pair investigates the murder of a provincial aristocrat, they unearth a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of Imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt and Helena must make a choice: will they abandon the laws they’ve sworn to uphold, in order to protect the Empire?

It all sounds terrific but to the reader turning page after page, searching for some logic among the various doings of Sir Konrad Vonvalt, there is only frustration. Vonvalt is a Justice and I get that this is some sort of office in the Emperor’s service but to have him shout at some poor soul to make him confess to some misdeed is a bit rich, in my view. Then to have some individuals grow immune to the voice so that they are no longer affected, well, spare me!

Sir Konrad is more than ably assisted by a clerk, a young woman who has more brains than Sir Konrad will ever have. She keeps the book alive. But notwithstanding her particular contribution, the book is little more than a horseback ride from one place to another and often back again. There is a lot of huffing and puffing on behalf of Sir Konrad, and a few fight scenes thrown in, but in essence it’s a hurry there and back again book.

Romance raises its head but the actual description of the love that exists between Helena and Matas is decidedly strange. The actual lovemaking scene is butter milk rather than full cream. I found myself urging them on, wanting to get them by the scruff of the neck, to somehow get some excitement happening.

Other characters float in and out of the story, nobody noticing if they’d come or gone.

This is a book best forgotten.

The Justice of Kings


by Richard Swan


ISBN: 978-0-356-51641-7

$32.99; 432 pp


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