Seven Princes: Books of the Shaper: Volume 1 by John R Fultz

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Seven Princes: Books of the Shaper: Volume 1 by John R Fultz

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Buy Seven Princes: Books of the Shaper: Volume 1 by John R Fultz at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Fantasy for those who like it dark. Prince D’zan, deposed by evil, travels towards his destiny, intricately linked with those of six princes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: January 2012
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356500812

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Elhathym gatecrashes a feast at the court of Vod-the-Giant-King demanding the throne, which he asserts was his 3,000 years ago. Vod is a little incredulous and refuses to abdicate. Elhathym then lives up to his job description (evil sorcerer), destroying the entire court... apart from his son, Prince D’zan who manages to escape with his bodyguard, Olthacus the Stone. Prince D’zan wants to fight to regain his kingdom but the only way to counter Elhathym and his armies of the dead is to form alliances with other nations; alliances that create friendships but also bring treachery and betrayal. Behind it all is Iardu the Shaper, a creation god-like figure who plans and plots.

Seven Princes is John R Fultz’s first full length novel. His influences include Tolkien’s Simarillion, the history book of Middle Earth that prequels The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and it shows. Fultz has created a world with a mythical feel, where giants walk and inter-marry with humans, where the snow-covered cold lands of the north are inhabited by giants coloured blue, where evil walks and a young prince is forced to travel to its edges in order to build an army and royal allies from other nations. The reader is thrown into the action. The prologue hasn’t even finished before King Vod is killed.

Fultz’s use of language is also clever and, sometimes, despite the darkness of the journey (more on that later), beautiful. For instance: An arc of rubies hung across his chest like drops of frozen blood, mimicking the cold moon with a red smile. There are books that, as you read, you see with your mind’s eye. This one you also luxuriate in with your mind’s voice.

So what did I think about it? Honestly? I don’t know... I really don’t know. I enjoyed it but there was something missing. There are reviews that slam it, unfairly in my view, for characters that don’t develop. The characters on the whole are fine. D’zan starts the book traumatised by events but goes on to grow in confidence and ability. Princes Tadarus and Vireon are first seen as lads who enjoy rough and tumble, but who grow in responsibility and stature as pages pass. Princess Sharadza (whom Fultz sees as the story’s conscience) certainly develops. (To explain further would be dallying in spoiler country.) The baddies are two dimensional but in good fantasy that doesn’t detract. I wasn’t wild about the violence – the whole book is very dark and not for the squeamish as there is much blood. (This isn’t meant as a spoiler, but a warning: most of the dead are graphically exsanguinated.) The only thing I can think it may be is that it’s totally humourless.

John R Fultz has gone on record as saying that he loves humour but he likes his fantasy serious. That’s fine and understandable but characters as an ensemble usually reflect all the emotions and traits encountered in the real world. Here none of the main characters seem to have a sense of humour. They are on a quest against a horrific background, admittedly, but even when faced with a seemingly insurmountable task, one would expect at least one of the many principals to show one glint of a twinkle in their eye. Actually, Iardu does have a hint of a twinkle, but in this book it’s just a suggestion rather than a confirmed sighting. He will be a recurring figure throughout The Books of the Shaper so perhaps the twinkle will eventually burst forth.

Having taken everything into account, though, this is a book setting up a series. The first book of a saga has a lot to impart as well as keeping the story flowing and, often, it isn’t as good as its subsequent instalments. A case in point is Jim Butcher’s Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera). This first book was ok, but those following excelled. Even proponents of Tolkien have been known to whisper that The Fellowship of the Ring isn’t as strong as the remaining trilogy components. So, asking myself the question again, it would be accurate to say that I enjoyed Seven Princes, it was just lacking a bit of seasoning. This is just John R Fultz’s hors d’oeuvres. His main course is still to come and I for one look forward to it with interest.

If you enjoyed this and would like to remain with a mythical fantasy theme, try Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye by Alison Goodman.

Buy Seven Princes: Books of the Shaper: Volume 1 by John R Fultz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Seven Princes: Books of the Shaper: Volume 1 by John R Fultz at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Seven Princes: Books of the Shaper: Volume 1 by John R Fultz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Seven Princes: Books of the Shaper: Volume 1 by John R Fultz at Amazon.com.

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