The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons is the story of a boy destined to end the world. Kihrin, a thief raised in a whorehouse, is suddenly caught up in the plans of some very powerful people after he’s deemed the Chosen One, the boy meant to destroy everything he knows and loves. Kihrin isn’t really keen on the idea, but his enemies don’t seem to believe him. Even his newfound allies seem convinced he’s supposed to be the one to bring everything crashing down, and Kihrin feels helplessly caught in the middle. Will he take hold of his destiny, or is he merely a pawn in the machinations of those far stronger than him?
The storytelling of this novel is very unique; there are effectively three storytellers. Kihrin tells the story from where he thinks it begins, but is regularly interrupted by his jailer, a shapeshifter who can read minds and retains the memories of her many victims. She starts the story earlier, and the two alternate and fight over details throughout the book. Finally, there are regular footnotes made by a magician who’s making a case for Kihrin’s acquittal to the emperor. These three perspectives come together to tell the story of a hero who isn’t really a hero, and villains who just might be trying to save the world.
The moral dilemmas presented in The Ruin of Kings are surprisingly nuanced. Lyons does more than just make you empathize with the villain; she shows you a depth to each character that makes it impossible to label any of them as just “good” or “evil”. Some of the worst characters, who perform the most heinous acts, are the ones trying to save everything. Some of the most important protagonists lived terrible lives of death and torture, but are redeemed through their friendships, their ability to trust despite their pasts, and their loyalty to each other and their gods.
The large number of characters and the complexity of the story were a bit difficult for me to keep up with. If you have trouble remembering names or keeping characters straight you might struggle a bit. The Glossary at the back of the book helps a lot with this issue… if only I’d noticed it was there!
I’d recommend this book to anyone who liked Game of Thrones or The Hunger Games, because this book is a sort of mashup of the themes of those two series. It has the politics, plots, and interesting characters of Game of Thrones, but with the more personal story and themes of fate you’d find in The Hunger Games.
If this epic adventure sounds like something you’re interested in, you can get it on Kindle for $8.99 or a hard copy at your local bookstore.