The Hellborn King by Christopher G Brenning review

Hello!  Welcome to the latest review here on the Swordsmith blog, westu hal to you.  I am delighted to be back reviewing after a break, it was much needed and now I am ready to begin again and see this year out.  Vesna has provided some wonderful reviews on the blog, do check them out when you can.

However I am here today with a review of The Hellborn King by Christopher G Brenning, book 1 in The Hellborn King Saga.  Before we go any further, I would like to say that I was offered a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.  Now it’s time for the premise.

The Premise

A KINGDOM AT WAR.

A ROYAL FAMILY AT WAR WITH ITSELF.

After the massacre of his people, Damien Dreadfire leads a patchwork army of unlikely allies against the Kingdom of Betanthia. The alliance teeters on the edge of a knife, as old rivalries between clans threatens to tear it apart. With the help of his trusted friend, Einarr, and a strange mystic, Damien launches a bold offensive that will decide the future of the free lands. Short on time, and even shorter on men, the fate of a once vibrant culture and its people rests on the outcome of the next battle.

Meanwhile, Betanthia’s crown prince, Gareth Bethard, faces dangers of his own. With his family coming apart at the seams and a growing conspiracy afoot, he tries desperately to hold everything together. Even as Gareth grapples with inner demons, he must learn to take up his father’s mantle as the protector of civilization and defeat Damien’s invading horde. It’s only the fate of a thousand-year dynasty resting on his shoulders, after all.

The Review

This was a book that left me feeling drained, it was brilliant. A pulse pounding work of Grimdark fantasy that started with a brutal building, built a fantastic world and was populated by some intriguing primary and secondary characters.  Essentially this book had everything I look for in fantasy literature!

The world depicted is cruel, it is a world divided between North and South.  It is a world full of it’s problems, as the reader will come to realise but this is a wondrous thing about secondary creation.  The depiction of the world with an empire in decline with the North staking a claim of its was amazing, the intrigue that Christopher builds as well within the Kingdom is excellent.  The book does start slowly, with the pieces moving and some effective worldbuilding, this allowed for the characters to really develop as well.  

What well developed characters as well, from Damian, Einar, Lucetta, Gareth and Madeline and Titan of course.  You will come to know these characters and their hopes, dreams, strengths and weaknesses.  I had two real standout characters, the first was Einarr.  He is a member of the barbarian tribes with Damian, and it is through his POV that we see the invasion of the Kingdom and it’s his POV that the enemy can be something quite unexpected.  The other was Madeline, a successful soldier who has never lost a battle, she is tasked with stopping the invasion but faces a daunting task.  It’s through the characters the book really shines as Chrstopher does a brilliant job of highlighting both sides of the conflict. 

This is a slow burn book with a brutal prologue and taking it’s time to establish the characters and then the world, and Christopher has done such a good job with this.  This is an excellent multi POV story which does not waste anytime, while the action scenes are brilliant the large scale combat scenes are well executed as well.  It is the quieter moments of this book where it shines, but I will warn you this is not a happy story and it is set for a next book as well.

This easily makes its way onto my recommended reading, it’s a grimdark story that is brutal but shines in it’s quieter moments.  It had everything I looked for in fantasy, some wonderful characters and an intriguing world and what’s better is there is going to be more as well.  I really enjoyed the slow burn approach as it allowed for some effective world building and characterisation and is the first grimdark book I have picked up for sometime.  

That’s all from me on The Hellborn King, thank you for sticking with me through this review, thank you for checking out the blog as well.  May I take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas, and hope that you are staying safe and reading something awesome and finally westu hal.

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