Review: Season of Kings

  • Title:
    • Season of Kings
  • Author:
    • A.J. Rettger
  • Release:
    • July 1, 2022
  • Format:
    • Audiobook
    • Hardcover
  • Narrator:
    • Cad Delworth
  • Series:
    • The Raven’s War Trilogy #1

Season of Kings hooked me from the beginning. It wastes no time in introducing you to the protagonists, all of which are human. I’m not referring to their species, I mean they’re human as in they have personalities and flaws. They’re just people trying to live their lives, and for some reason, the world feels the need to put a stick between their legs every few steps.

The protagonists are not good people. They’re killers and criminals, they’re all flawed in their own ways, more so than most people, but the author still managed to make them relatable. While they’ve all done, and or do terrible things, it’s hard to not want them to succeed. Despite their vile acts, I still found them wanting to succeed and rooting for them.

I rarely talk about characters in my reviews because I don’t care about people. I don’t find people interesting, and in most books, I find they’re not well done or compelling. This is one of those exceptions. Where they’re likable because they all feel as if they’re a real person and not just words on a page. Credit where it’s due, I feel a significant part of that may have been the audio performance. However, I’ll save my thoughts for that the end.

The combat scenes excel in this book. Much like the characters, they’re so well done, you feel like a spectator as you’re watching these scenes unfold. It’s not just “Character swings axe, other character dodges. Character swings axe again and kills the enemy.” They’re brutal. One moment that stands out is a fight between two people where one begins to brutally assault the other in a desperate plea to save their own life. I felt the urgency, I was worried about who was going to win, and very invested in the scene.

I guess what I want to say is, the characters in this story lack plot armor. Every dangerous scene they’re in is as compelling as the last because they genuinely feel as if they’re in danger. Even on my second listen, I was just as interested and consumed by the combat scenes as I was the first time.

I still don’t know what the plot of this story is, I’m along for the ride, wherever it goes. I don’t read summaries, so as to go into stories without expectations. You’re a lot less likely to be disappointed if your only expectation is to be told a story. While this is part of a planned trilogy, I still think you could read it as a standalone and still be satisfied with it.

To clarify, the story starts off with some quick combat scenes, then a thorough introduction to each character, explaining why you should be invested in them, then closing it up with more combat. Book 1 is primarily scene-setting and world-building. It ends in a way that makes it clear there’s still more to be told, yet doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger ending.

I’m super excited to read the next book to see if my hunches and predictions were right…. They’re probably not. Every time I thought I had some plot or subplot figured out, the story took a hard left turn and left me dumbfounded. I never had more of an idea of what was going to happen than the characters did. That shouldn’t be taken as a complaint, I loved that. When books are predictable, they’re still enjoyable, but it then becomes less about the journey and more about how the author is going to go about it.

Season of Kings was a hell of a journey. It sent shivers down my spine, it made me laugh. There were moments of nail-biting apprehension and moments that made me furious. I was, as I said previously, invested from start to finish.

Finally, one of the best parts of this book. The audio narration. Ho-ley-hell, this narrator was something else. I am extremely critical of narrators. I have zero patience for bad narrations, audiobooks are way too expensive for lackluster performances. This guy was easily one of the best narrators I’ve ever heard. You can tell he takes his job seriously. He actually voice-acted the lines. Every character felt distinct, with their own voice, tone, mannerisms, etc. It was never an issue telling who was talking because they all had distinct voices, which is as it should be in audiobooks.

He spoke loud and clear, with gusto. There were moments when a character would be furious and you could hear the growly nature of his voice which helped flesh him out as a real person and not a cardboard cutout resembling a person, like so many characters in books are. At one point, when a crowd of people chants in unison, there was actual layered dialogue to represent that. I really cannot exaggerate when I say how much I appreciated moments like that. Too often narrators just say “The character yelled.” after dialogue, reading it in the same bored tone they’re reading everything else in. I honestly feel, even if most narrators were up to my standards, this one would still stand out in the crowd.

I would be remiss if I left out the obnoxious “wh” pronunciations though. He puts far too much emphasis on those two letters in sentences and it drove me crazy. Those moments pulled me out of the moment because I was seething at having to hear words such as “hhhhwhhite”, or however you’d type that pronunciation.

Season of Kings won’t be for everybody. There are graphic depictions of murder, gore, mentions, threats of rape, etc. While those are all selling points to me in the realism column, I know not everybody can tolerate that. I normally leave the audio section for last, but I needed something to pad out that section and the one spoiler I wanted to cumplain about. This book is incredible, just buy it already.

As for which version you should buy….. get the physical and the audiobook. The audio narration is one of the best I’ve ever heard. While the physical book has a map, which I’m sure would have helped me plot out locations, had I not been multi-talking while listening. One failing of the physical copy I will note is the lack of character names for each chapter, which the audiobook has. I will also note that I won an ARC copy in a giveaway, so it’s entirely possible the finished book has these, (or a future revision) and mine just doesn’t.

Alright, you’ve been warned about the spoiler. One moment that I found upsetting, for lack of a better word was when a group of characters was accused of a crime they were innocent of. One of the protagonists could have cleared their names, but didn’t. While there wasn’t enough time to flesh out the possible ramifications of that scene, and it’s possible it’ll be touched on in book 2, I just couldn’t get that off of my mind. I chalk it up to this book being so damn good, and these characters so likable, I was invested in their plight and sad to see their fate, which they really didn’t deserve.

NOTE: This copy was provided to me free of charge as a digital review copy. The opinions stated in this review are mine and mine alone, I was not paid or requested to give this book a certain rating, suggestion, or approval.

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