Title: The Last of the Atalanteans (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 2)
Author: P.L. Stuart
Released: March 31, 2022
Book Reviewer: Christine Bode
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.
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.