BOOK REVIEW: The Last of the Atalanteans (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 2) by P. L. Stuart

Book Review

Title: The Last of the Atalanteans (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 2)
Author:  P.L. Stuart
Publisher: FriesenPress
Released: March 31, 2022
Pages: 534
ASIN: B08VS15WTR
Book Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  4.0

Book Two in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, The Last of the Atalanteans by fantasy fiction master, P.L. Stuart, opens with Othrun, Thurol, and Glathan: three Atalanteans in disguise as Lynchun soldiers using assumed names, entering the Lynchun border city of Lionshead, en route to its capitol, Lionfort. Together with the usurped Lynchun King, Centi, Earl of Lynchun, and the rightful King of Lynchun, Wely, this five-men ruse intend to get Wely’s kingdom back from his corrupt brother and wife.

Badan—the ugly Earl of Lionshead—sides with Wely’s usurping brother Orlu, Lynchun’s greatest, undefeated warlord. Badan is a man to be reckoned with and not discounted. Badan’s men are watching the “captured” Wely, for whom he hopes to be rewarded by Orlu while nudging Centi out of the way so he can gain the king’s favour.

Othrun, the narrator and orchestrator of their remarkable play, hopes that their deceptive plan will hold and that within twenty-seven days, their forces will besiege Lionfort. But he has no idea what lies in store for them.

And so, author Stuart sets the stage for another grand and bold chapter in this epic fantasy saga. He writes this brilliant chess match between usurpers, warriors, noblemen and mages with a visceral description of the sights, sounds and odours of the places his heroes occupy. Stuart perfectly sets the tone for the adventure and inevitable battles to follow. Stuart skillfully interweaves the fascinating supernatural tale of Othrun’s beloved, albeit cursed, Atalantean steel sword, Sure-Steel, and the Anchali, an enigmatic angel who claims to be his true father. Othrun has a hard time wrapping his Single God-believing mind around the contradiction of the pagan beliefs he’s surrounded by, creating an absorbing conflict of a non-killing kind.

Stuart also reintroduces the powerful mage, Lysi, Princess of Nyrimia. She is my favourite character and the perfect adversary for the Fab Five of Fantasy—regardless of her sexual attraction to the married Othrun. Fierce, fearless and intelligent, Lysi is the femme fatale warrior who will hold the fate of the Five in her hands. In addition, she adds much-needed humour, magic, and sexual tension to Othrun’s tale as she challenges his spiritual beliefs.

There are spies amongst the band of warriors trying to make their way to Lionfort, making their journey treacherous beyond the inclement weather and inhospitable accommodations. The King of Lynchun’s wife, Syda, also a powerful mage, wants Wely dead. It will take cunningness and hyper-vigilance for Othrun’s men to deliver Wely to King Orlu in one piece. Lord Badan doesn’t view Othrun as the noble hero he believes he is, so the arrogant Othrun will have to hold his cards close to his chest to protect his ruse.

Othrun hates paganism and blames it for the seduction of his brother Erthal by Dira and the downfall of Atalantyx. He believes that there is no room in the realm for other gods. They must eradicate them. 

“It was the God-given task of the virtuous kingdom of Atalantyx, I believed, led by my royal house, to rid the world of those idolaters. I had seen the Anchali’s power, its glory, and its wonder. I knew our Single God to be real. Any other sort of worship was heresy. Yet there I was believing in pagan magic, as wielded by Lysi.”

In Chapter Twenty-Nine, Yedwol the Old tells the story of the Battle of Berefet to Othrun, and the reader learns more about the history of the Altalantean warriors. It is superbly crafted. Describing the tragedy of war from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old warrior with the spirit of a dragon, Yedwol’s tale will make you weep. Beheading women and children for the gold in their land is beyond atrocious. However, the Berefetish people still tried to kill and poison the three hundred warriors left in the Atalantean army after their colossal battle as they resisted their sovereignty. Yedwol and his young men stole everything they could and killed everyone who opposed them while praying to their Single God. And how that sickens me. There is no justification for such behaviour and no way I could cheer for them.

Othrun asks himself if he could kill Eltnish women and children to bring monotheism to the continent of Acremia and secure gold for the prosperity of the Eastrealm, his soon-to-be kingdom. However, he cannot abide rape or violence against women, children and the weak, so he watches the shine of his uncle’s glory tarnish.

As war rages between Russia and Ukraine, it is difficult to read such a passage knowing that millennia later, in the real world, men still kill each other for power, land, and greed and because they think their religion is the truth. War is not only something glorified in fantasy fiction or history books; it is inherent to man’s nature, which saddens this reader deeply. Of course, we should never ennoble war, but for those who enjoy reading about it and want to experience the horror, Stuart is a master narrator. He also manages to capture the humanity behind the carnage.

Othrun’s conflict is authentic and complex. This profoundly flawed man slowly evolves before our eyes in the second volume of this epic seven-book series that author Stuart is planning. In this story, he must be a follower rather than a leader most of the time. Othrun befriends a homosexual warrior named Hani, who enjoys cooking for their party of conspirators against Orlu. Although Hani favours sleeping with men, an abomination to the Single God, Othrun decides he doesn’t care and likes him anyway.

After reading Book One, I wasn’t sure if I would care enough about Othrun to follow him on his journey. But after reading Book Two, I am pleased by his evolving humanity, captivated by the storyline, and cannot wait for what will happen in the next instalment of The Drowned Kingdom saga, Lord and King, to be published next year.

If you missed it, read my review of A Drowned Kingdom (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 1). Then, buy your copy of The Last of the Atalanteans here.

P.L. Stuart will be a fantasy fiction legend like his heroes Cornwell, Martin, and Jemesin before the last book in this series is published.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Book Cover for The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One

The synopsis for The Name of the Wind on Amazon reads: “The riveting first-person narrative of a young man who grows to be the most notorious magician his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard. It is a high-action novel written with a poet’s hand, a powerful coming-of-age story of a magically gifted young man, told through his eyes: to read this book is to be the hero.”

Book Review
Title: The Name of the Wind
Author:  Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher: Daw Books, Inc.
Released: April 1, 2008
Pages: 736
ISBN-10: 0756404746
ISBN-13: 978-0756404741
Stars:  4.0

The journey begins on an evening in a small village at the Waystone Inn on Felling Night where locals gather to listen to Old Cob’s stories about the most famous wizard ever known, Taborlin the Great, who had been locked in a tower and stripped of his tools by a mysterious group of seven supernatural beings known as The Chandrian. The young innkeeper is a quiet man with flame-red hair and dark green eyes who listens without comment to the tale. We learn that the locals not only believe in demons but that they appear to be lurking in their midst when a man named Carter walks in, smeared with blood, and tells them that his horse has been killed by a monstrous spider-like creature known as a Scrael, that is only one of many that threaten the townspeople. Thus begins our initiation into the fully realized medieval world of Rothfuss’ creation, known as the Four Corners of Civilization, in which something wicked this way comes, magic is not only possible but practiced, and iron kills demons.

The Name of the Wind is narrated by the protagonist, Kote, (a man who is known by many different names) as he tells the story of his life to a scribe called Chronicler, while his servant, apprentice, and friend, Bast, a dark, charming ladies man who calls Kote by the name Reshi, listens. Kote revisits his adventurous and often tragic past when he was known by his real name, Kvothe, and how as a teenager of 15, the poor but brilliant orphan that he was managed to get accepted into the University (the aforementioned legendary school of magic), to study to become a Master Arcanist.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully written epic fantasy story by Patrick Rothfuss – which won a Quill Award and became a New York Times Bestseller – I thought it would be more “high-action” than it actually is. One must be patient with this slow burn of a tale, as this book is the first in a trilogy that has not yet been completed, even though The Name of the Wind was published in 2007. I will definitely read volume two of The Kingkiller Chronicles, The Wise Man’s Fear, this year.

For me, this book is about the art of storytelling, the love of knowledge and music, as well as one man’s quest to find his way back to who he once was. The fact that the main character, Kvothe, does not initiate the quest, but rather his Fae friend Bast does, is something the reader doesn’t know until the end. Bast is my favourite character and I look forward to anything else that Rothfuss has to share with readers about him. He should have his own book if you ask me, but as fans of these books have already been waiting for 14 years for the last book in the trilogy, I won’t hold my breath.

I am truly intrigued and invested in the story of Kvothe, who I adore, although I was hoping for more magic, and at least some sex in this book. However, one of the things I love most about The Name of the Wind is the fact that Kvothe respects women and that there are no less than four significant women in his life, so far: Denna, Devi, Fela, and Auri, who are all interesting and complex characters. Auri even earned her own story in The Slow Regard of Silent Things. His story begins when he is a young boy, but the romance of this tale is both palpable and restrained and Kvothe’s restraint was as excruciating for me as it was for him.

That being said, it is Bast’s words that deeply moved me, in this part on page 716:

“No, listen. I’ve got it now. You meet a girl: shy, unassuming. If you tell her she’s beautiful, she’ll think you’re sweet, but she won’t believe you. She knows that beauty lies in your beholding.” Bast gave a grudging shrug. “And sometimes that’s enough.”

His eyes brightened. “But there’s a better way. You show her she is beautiful. You make mirrors of your eyes, prayers of your hands against her body. It is hard, very hard, but when she truly believes you…” Bast gestured excitedly. “Suddenly the story she tells herself in her own head changes. She transforms. She isn’t seen as beautiful. She is beautiful, seen.”

I think the reason that I love this passage so much is that I experienced that very thing only once in my life, and it has remained one of the most profound experiences of it. Kvothe states that there are seven words that will make a woman fall in love, and there are many possibilities within these pages but no definitive declaration. For me, they are, “I love you for who you are.”

Like it is written on the back cover jacket of this book, this “is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man’s search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.” It’s a story that contains adventure, magic, monsters, friendship, a nemesis, romance, heroism, and heartbreak, and for me, all the best stories do.

I can’t wait to find out what happens next.