Published: January 27, 2016 (Kindle)
Publisher: Kel Kade
Pages: 587 (Kindle)
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
The mysterious, indomitable warrior? Ruthless criminal overlord? The Riel’gesh – mythical demigod? Dedicated friend and protector?
Equipped with skills far beyond those of the outworlders, Rezkin has been suddenly thrust into a foreign world. The young warrior clings to his only known purpose as he continues his search for any information about his identity and the reason for his existence. While the hardened warrior scorns both dueling and tournaments, he believes some of the answers he seeks may be found at the King’s Tournament, the greatest dueling championship in all of the kingdoms. As he searches for the elusive Striker Farson, who may be the only person alive who holds the clues, the young warrior and his friends embark on a journey fraught with danger, mystery and intrigue.
Amidst fears of the kingdom’s economic collapse, rumors of an eminent military draft, and the machinations of a mad, tyrannical king, a new revelation threatens to upend all the warrior’s plans.
Okay, deep breath. Reign of Madness was a superb sequel to Free the Darkness and I’m still riding the emotional high off the ending, so this review might be a little more of a fan-fest than usual. Kel Kade’s storytelling ability has exceeded all of my expectations, which I must admit were not that high before beginning the series. I’m always skeptical when I see books with many positive reviews that haven’t been mentioned by fellow Fantasy lovers. I figure someone else has to have read it if it were good, right? WRONG. This book- the series, really- is so much fun to read and I’ve not heard anyone else rave about it!
As soon as I finished the first book, I downloaded Reign of Madness and went back about my business whilst ignoring people to the best of my ability. After all the action in FtD, RoM may seem slow by comparison. There’s considerably more dialogue between the characters, which is great because it allows the reader to get to know and love the new additions to the cast as well as serving the purpose of fleshing out the world, culture, and political climate. There were some parts where I briefly wished everyone would stop their yapping and pillage a town or kill some bandits. This book was almost a strategic info dump because it expounds so much on the “Outworld” as Rezkin so refers to the world outside of the fortress he was raised in. It fills in many of the gaps that were sort of noticeable in the first installment, and needed to be remedied for the plot to have merit and I think Kel Kade did an admirable job.
The story was packed with emotion, which more or less made up for the serious lack of battles in the first half. The group of characters, now expanded to include Frisha’s cousins and several other nobles, is travelling to the King’s Tournament in Skutten, where great swordsmen and women from all lands gather to compete. Rezkin is trying to find answers, but clearly the most accomplished sword master in all the realms cannot forgo such an opportunity to further his own agendas. There’s a good deal of intrigue going on here and Rezkin is doing that thing where he doesn’t let his friends in on his secrets. Not all of them anyways, and perhaps not the most important of all- Frisha. That poor girl is left alone wondering what he could be doing, and while he doesn’t lie to her outright he lets her make assumptions and that is dangerous. This kind of thing leads to betrayal!!!! See Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy for examples.
All in all this was a great sequel but I feel I can’t quite give it full marks. The events had huge significance, but it felt like the whole thing was a preamble to the third book- one giant set up. I was also disappointed to find that “the Raven” was barely present at all during this book, especially after all his hard work dominating the criminal underworld. That too will likely play a very large role in the third book and I do look forward to seeing how all that plays out. Once again Nick Podehl did a great job on narration. So great in fact that I wished Rezkin would have pushed Shiela Jebai off the ship because she was a horror and her voice was equally obnoxious!