The One Kingdom (The Swans’ War #1) by Sean Russell

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In a kingdom long without a king, two great enemy families desire the prize of rule. The machinations of the Renne and the Wills have already sundered a troubled realm. And now, generations on, their intrigues could drown it in blood. (taken from the back of the book)

Written exceedingly well, this series belongs on the shelf next to greats such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and Tad Williams. It’s the sort of story world I happily get lost in, peopled by characters that are flawed, dangerous, brave, loyal, and incredibly real.

There are multiple story-lines in this book that seem very disparate, but eventually become tangled up in interesting ways. A good chunk of this book follows the Hero’s Journey, through the character of Tam. Tam is one of a group of traders, hoping to buy more horses and, ultimately, return home wiser in the ways of the world. It’s a very hobbit-esque origin, without being a rip-off. Unfortunately for Tam and his friends (but fortunate for the reader), the wide world has other plans.

At the same time, Toren Renee is the first of his house to hope for peace. It’s a hope that is threatened on all sides, as those from both the Renee house and the Wills plot to prevent that. Never come between a powerful person and his feud.  On top of the political intrigue, there’s an unwanted marriage in the Wills family, and- underneath it all, an ancient and powerful revenge story that threatens everything.

One of the things I loved about this book is that it doesn’t rely on quick slash ’em up battles. Any action is there to further the story. Because of this, the pacing can seem a bit slow at the beginning. Trust me; the setup is worth it. The prose drew me in, and the way the characters evolved kept me interested. The ending of the first book had me rushing to grab the second.

A good chunk of the book takes place on the river Wynd. Normally books that involve sitting on boats or ships for long periods of time bore me, but such was not the case here. The river itself is an intriguing, and sometimes creepy, character. I love when a setting becomes more than just the backdrop!

If you’re a fan of The Wheel of Time series, like a good fantasy, or just want a well-written book, don’t pass up the chance to grab The One Kingdom.

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