Curse of Kings (The Trials of Oland Born, Book 1) by Alex Barclay
|Curse of Kings (The Trials of Oland Born, Book 1) by Alex Barclay
|Category: Confident Readers
|Reviewer: Robert James
|Summary: Stunning world-building and great characters make the first in this new series one to savour. Outstanding, a huge recommendation.
|Date: January 2013
|Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
|External links: Author's website
In a land tormented by the screams of 999 souls, victims of dreadful experiments which have taken place since the despicable coward Villius Ren betrayed a king and seized power for himself, a young boy is about to become a hero. Servant to Ren and the rest of the Craven Lodge, 14-year-old Oland Born takes a stand and is forced to flee the castle after reading a mysterious letter addressed to him, but written by a king who died before he was even born. Trying to find out more about his background and how to save the kingdom from the Lodge, Oland sets out on a quest.
I was absolutely hooked on this one within a couple of pages. The prologue, with Ren murdering King Micah, sets the scene superbly, and we're then plunged into a fascinating world of heroism, villainy, dark curses, prophecies and evil experiments. As wonderful as Oland himself is - and he's an awesome character, one of my favourite leads for ages - and as great as the rest of the people he meets are, it's the world-building which pushed this beyond very good and into 'must read' territory for me. Barclay, writing her first children's novel but an established author of adult crime fiction, has created a richly detailed setting which I'm desperate to find out more about.
In addition, as you'd perhaps expect from an author with Barclay's background in crime fiction, the action is fast and furious and there's plenty of superb twists. I was about to suggest that the short chapters - there's 70, most lasting around six pages - would make this perfect for youngsters to read a chapter a night of, but realistically there's no way I can see them putting it down without it being prised out of their hands by parents who want them to get some sleep! It's rather dark – surprisingly so, given the age range it seems to be aimed at – but not particularly explicit so I'd be happy to recommend it to older primary or younger secondary pupils (as long as they weren't given to nightmares, anyway!)
Huge recommendation as a stunning read which looks set to be the start of a great series.
For more brilliant world-building and exciting action, Curtis Jobling's Wereworld series - starting with Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf - is wonderful. Just as exciting, and with another richly developed setting, this time based in our own world, is Department 19 by Will Hill and its sequel Department 19: The Rising. You might enjoy The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch but we had our reservations.
You can read more book reviews or buy Curse of Kings (The Trials of Oland Born, Book 1) by Alex Barclay at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Curse of Kings (The Trials of Oland Born, Book 1) by Alex Barclay at Amazon.com.
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