There are the old stories. And then there’s what actually happens.
Kihrin is a bastard orphan who grew up on storybook tales of long-lost princes and grand quests. When he is claimed against his will as the long-lost son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds that being a long-lost prince isn’t what the storybooks promised.
Far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family’s power plays and ambitions. He also discovers that the storybooks have lied about a lot of other things things, too: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love, and how the hero always wins.
Then again, maybe he’s not the hero, for Kihrin isn’t destined to save the empire.
He’s destined to destroy it . . .
Content Warnings: off-page rape, slavery, violence, torture, graphic depiction of murder, body horror, colonisation.
“Now you are a man with a knife. Woe to the Empire.”
The Ruin of Kings is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. This tremendous novel is a wild ride from start to finish and there’s not one moment where the plot lets up and lets you have a reprieve. I love that in books and its an easy way to make me a life-long reader of your work!
The structure of the novel, like the plot, is intricate and clever, and I was in awe of Jenn Lyon’s writing capabilities. The story is presented in three different perspectives: from the main character, Kihrin; from his jailor, Talon; and from Thurvishar, who is writing the footnotes. The story follows Kihrin from two different points in his life: from his childhood to his discovering he is the son of a royal family, to after he is sold as a slave a year later, until both stories meet up to the present, where he is sitting in a cell telling his story to Talon. Initially, it is a bit confusing to follow the different timelines but Jenn Lyon’s writing quickly sweeps you into the story and after the first few chapters, it is easy to follow on.
I can’t even begin to explain the plot of this novel because it is so breathtaking and complex. There are so many little pieces of information that are revealed and don’t become integral to the story until later, and trying to tie all of them together was amusing. This book features royalty, demons, gods, dragons, soul magic, and a war that has been raging for centuries. Each chapter ends on a mini cliffhanger so each time I found myself saying, “I’ll just read one more chapter before bed,” I ended up reading at least another ten and before I knew it, it was 2am.
Real evil isn’t a demon or a rogue wizard. Real evil is an empire like Quur, a society that feeds on its poor and oppressed like a mother eating her own children. Demons and monsters are obvious; we’ll always band together to fight them off. But real evil, insidious evil, is what lets us walk away from another person’s pain and say, well, that’s none of my business.
I absolutely adored the main character, Kihrin. I think he’s probably one of my all-time favourite characters now. He is such a little shit! My boy is in life-threatening danger and he’ll be mouthing off to the person who is about to kill him because he can’t help himself. He is also bisexual!! And he’s the literal definition of a bisexual disaster. I’m hoping that the relationship he has with a certain friend develops into something more!!
But he also goes through so much. Seriously, so much, the poor guy. You really can’t help but feel for him — he doesn’t want this destiny that has been thrust upon him, but he has no choice but to deal with it. What I love is how Lyons plays with the “chosen one” trope: Kihrin is not destined to save the world; he’s destined to destroy it. Y’all know I adore villain origin stories! Can’t wait to see how Kihrin’s destiny plays out in the next book!
“I don’t want to be your hero. Those stories never end well.”
The Ruin of Kings is a book I can see myself rereading again and again. I went between a physical copy of the book and the audiobook, and I enjoyed both the same amount! Please do yourselves a favour and read this book!