The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan

Rate: 3/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers):

My friend who is a lawyer recommended The Justice of Kings and I can absolutely see why this title resonates particularly with him as so many of the driving forces for the characters and the plot are centered around the law. Personally, the legal jargon at times made me glaze over and the bureaucratic order of operations regarding trials slows the story, especially when imminent danger looms, but the overall story is a fascinating introduction to this complex literary world.

This story is told from the perspective of Helena Sedanka, who is an apprentice to Sir Konrad Vonvalt, a rigid and surly King’s Justice. Vonvalt saves Sedanka from a life of extreme poverty and teaches her his craft upon seeing her potential and daring in a failed pickpocket attempt. As Sedanka grows into womanhood though we see her actively chafing at Vonvalt and his teachings. Despite her intelligence, Sedanka fills many of the stereotypical teenage boxes from love at first sight, to impulsiveness, and rebellion. The rest of the recurring characters had little to no significant depth other than a backstory that can be summed up in one line tropes, e.g. street urchin orphan or soldier with a dead family. The past for these characters is almost completely absent from the esteemed Justice to the one dimensional villains whose motivations are never quite teased out.

Sedanka is the only significant female in the book, though I suppose you could make an argument there is a second, but Judge August’s appearances are fleeting, sporadic, and resoundingly brief, considering the state that her fate carves into the main character.

Helena’s narration holds very little emotion as she is retelling the facts through the vast passage of time, maintaining a neutral voice throughout that she cultivates in a lifetime immersed in law. Formatting the narration in this manner allows Swan to scatter plenty of foreshadowing throughout that alludes to the dire events awaiting the protagonists. The story as a whole has the feel of a prologue that is setting the stage for massive, world changing events taking shape in the near future, while establishing the backstories for key characters.

Toward the end of the story, I increasingly started wondering if there had been a mistake with the title as there are no Kings in this literary realm. Interestingly, the origin of the title itself doesn’t become apparent until the final paragraphs of this novel when the connection is finally made. Even then, the title doesn’t quite fit the story in its entirety. 

Overall, The Justice of Kings is filled with potential, but this detailed and complex literary world has too many generic characters who fail to connect with the reader.

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound)

  • How did Claver get the powers he has? How did he so quickly teach others?
  • With how Vonvalt treated Justice August, the impact her death had on him seemed over the top.. Also the prolonged change in his character over her death was another extreme swing. 
  • What happened to the girl that was kidnapped? 
  • How does one ‘teach’ magic such as the Emperor’s Voice?
  • What will happen and what will Vonvalt find when he returns to the Order of Justices as they are losing power and becoming corrupt.

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