Narratively, The Ruin of Kings has everything you could want from a fantasy epic ... author Jenn Lyons weaves the tale beautifully, parsing out narrative information at a masterful pace through the story's cleverly-structured frame tale .... The story is tightly-plotted with a rich setting that expands off of the pages and beyond the narrative, but this book is rarely intimidating ... Near the end of the 560-page story, the twists and turns involving the many, often similarly-named characters can get a bit confusing and expository ... For the most part, Lyons does a fantastic job of leading the reader through a dense plot, making The Ruin of Kings a supremely-accessible epic fantasy experience that doesn't sacrifice moral ambiguity, structural creativity, or textured worldbuilding in the process.
I’m an absolute sucker for innovative structures, and really appreciated [the] setup—in addition to maintaining that 'but how did they get here' tension, the story-swapping makes for short, snappy chapters that put me in mind of the adage about the best way to eat an elephant. The narrative infelicities that don’t stand up to scrutiny...are shored up by the scholar’s presence, and [the narrator's] epigraph stating that he’s condensed and edited some things to make it a more enjoyable read for the mysterious royal personage to whom he has delivered it ... There are, however, too many mysteries ... The Ruin of Kings muddles stakes and scale, often substituting the latter for the former ... Parsing the genealogy of immortals quickly grows frustrating and tedious; I often felt as if I were reading the middle book of a trilogy without having read the first. That said, it’s impossible not to be impressed with the ambition of it all, the sheer, effervescent joy Lyons takes in the scope of her project.
Breathless, yet, and no place for the reader to stop and catch up, as we are drawn deeper and deeper into a world with its own rules and its own personnel: god-kings, firebloods, shadowdancers and more to come, laid out tantalizingly in footnotes and glossary and addenda ... Ms. Lyons is all set to take her readers on a long journey indeed, unfolding and unfolding like brilliant origami. So far, though, not a hairy chest in sight, nor a languishing maiden. Fantasy has moved on, and is all the better for it.
The worldbuilding of The Ruin of Kings is an absolute delight, dropping the reader into a fully-fledged world in which every detail of every building, monster, and magical spell seems real enough to reach out and touch. With an incredible talent in describing both scenery and action, Lyons’s writing trusts the reader to keep up, and reminds me of the joy I found in fantasy books as a child, when all plots and tropes were still brand new to me ... I feel that the back-and-forth structure is actually doing a disservice to Lyons’ own great storytelling ... I found myself growing resentful at the start of each new chapter because of the way my focus was continually redirected ... But prospective readers of The Ruin of Kings should not be dissuaded by this flaw; the novel is definitely worth the frustration and extra work its narrative structure creates ... The Ruin of Kings presents its magical world in a way I have never seen before, dancing somewhere between the old-school concepts of magic as the opposite science and the newer trend to treat magic as science by another name.
Lyons’s dazzling debut is an audacious start to an ambitious five-book series ... Thoroughly modern in her use of dialogue and assured in her world building, Lyons eventually dovetails the two narratives into one with one stunning revelation after another that will leave the breathless reader wanting more. With the scope and sense of fatality of Patrick Rothfuss and well-choreographed action sense of Brandon Sanderson, Lyons leaps into the big leagues of epic fantasy and sticks the landing.
Lyons's story is a well-crafted, elaborate tale of a thief-turned-prince. Those who enjoy the works of Brandon Sanderson and George R.R. Martin, with a grand cast of characters and a doublecross in every chapter, will find this on par with their beloved authors ... This stunning debut takes epic fantasy to a high level, portraying a world filled with magic, demons, gods, and dragons, in which politics and power plays are the laws of the land.
While the comparisons to Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle will be unavoidable—in terms of story structure and general narrative content—the potential of this projected five-book saga may be even greater. Although a cast of well-developed characters and an impressively intricate storyline power this novel, it’s Lyons’ audacious worldbuilding that makes for such an unforgettable read. In a sprawling, magic-filled world populated by gods, dragons, krakens, witches, demons, ghosts, shape-shifters, zombies, and so much more, Lyons ties it all together seamlessly to create literary magic. Epic fantasy fans looking for a virtually un-put-down-able read should look no further.
Though the hero’s journey structure and classical fantasy elements are familiar, the complex mysteries and revelations feel novel and offer plenty of room for rereading and analysis. There’s more mystery than action in this tightly plotted tome, and its lore and memorable characters will leave epic fantasy fans eager for the second volume.