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I Belong


Review: Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising by Sarah Cawkwell

Heirs of the Demon King UprisingTitleHeirs of the Demon King: Uprising

AuthorSarah Cawkwell

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Heirs of the Demon King (Book #1)

Publication Date: June 5, 2014

Format: Paperback, 384 Pages

ISBN-101781082243 (Rebellion/Abaddon)

ISBN-13: 978-1781082249 (Rebellion/Abaddon)

Reviewed by: Kelly

Synopsis:

Epic fantasy meets alternate history in a sweeping saga that crosses the medieval world. Matthias Eynon must escape the clutches the Witchhunters and locate the masters of the four magic arts to overthrow the tyrannical Demon King, descendant of the twisted Richard III.

Mathias Eynon”s dreams were small. A dabbler in magic, and son of a magician, he expected to live in obscurity in his home in the Welsh hills, quietly conducting his experiments and hoping not to draw too much attention to himself.

But fate has other plans for him. It is the Year of Our Lord Fifteen-Ninety, and a revolution is quietly brewing, here and further abroad. Richard V has overstayed his rule, some say; others whisper that the whole line of Demon Kings must be burned out. Mathias, son of a man executed for the practice of magic, forbidden by the paranoid king is set to become a symbol, and a leader.

And to do that, he needs champions. A wise woman sends him to the corners of the known world to the frozen lands of the Danes, to the pirate-haunted ports of Spain, to the mountains of the German Empire, to the burning sands of the Holy Land to bring back masters of the four magic arts. With the best and brightest of Richard’s Witch Hunters on his heels, he sets out to gather his allies.

Quick & Dirty: Cawkwell generally succeeds in her ambitious effort to fuse the widespread existence of magic, demons from another realm, shape shifters and turbulent periods of English history into an overall entertaining tale. Though I was not a fan of the awkwardly delivered backstory and stereotyped characters, HotDK:Uprising reminded me of the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table stories. Not every fan of fantasy will appreciate this book, but those who enjoy the Arthurian-type legends will probably find something entertaining within its pages.

Opening Sentence: Everyone agreed afterwards that the execution had been one of the most entertaining in years.

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The Review:

The slightest mention of the English monarchy typically leaves me bleary-eyed and irritated. Any story that relies on me understanding the differences between all those Richards and Henrys isn’t a story I’m going to enjoy. Cawkwell’s premise is interesting but the two (yes, two) prologues containing the backstory of the Plantagenet line was a big obstacle for me.

Yet the prologues – abruptly delivered in alternating third-person reports and first-person narrative – are extremely important to the story. I’m not sure why Cawkwell decided to deliver the backstory in prologues but the end result is the Cardinal Sin of Storytelling: Don’t tell your readers what is happening; show them.

Richard the Lionheart introduced magic to the nobility of England and eventually to the rest of Europe. The role of magic changed as his heirs came into power, spreading slowly among the common people and moving the country into peaceful prosperity. Until, that is, King Henry the Third decided the magic in England needed to be returned to the exclusive control of the nobility. Public executions of anyone found practicing magic became the Crown’s preferred deterrent while other punishments were allowed as each new heir came to detest magic more than the one before. Finally, the Inquisition was formed to ruthlessly eradicate magic in all forms regardless of who practiced it. This resulted in fierce battles for the English throne by those who both practiced magic and supported the magi, thus threatening to remove the descendants of the Plantagenet line from the throne for good.

One of these descendants, King Richard the Third, was so desperate at the thought of losing his family’s throne that he called upon a demon named Melusine. Melusine promised to not only destroy his enemy, but also insure England’s place at the top of the European power struggle by gifting Richard’s heirs with special abilities that made the Kings of the Platagenet line greater, stronger and mightier than those who came before. Richard the Third bargained away something far more precious to insure his descendants continued seat on the English throne long after his death, though. The price Melusine demanded was the ability to one day call upon a future King and claim his first-born son as her new vessel on Earth. Surprise, surprise – turns out Melusine didn’t include some pretty important pieces of information when she persuaded King Richard to enter into their pact. Taking control of her vessel doesn’t just mean taking over his body. She intends to take over the human realm too by flooding Earth with other demons from the Aetherworld.

As interesting as the idea is that the English Royal family has some demon blood flowing through their veins, I’m unsure I would’ve stuck with it had the story not moved away from the pound-my-head-against-a-wall history of the Plantagenet line.  It does, but Cawkwell unfortunately continues to “tell” the story through several one-dimensional characters. Mathias Enyon and his adopted father, Wyn, live in a far-flung Welsh settlement still untouched by the Inquisition. Mathias is the stereotypical reluctant hero. He’s a simple boy with simple desires. He doesn’t want to be a hero or involve himself with events outside his home. The only plan he has for the future involves marrying the blacksmith’s daughter, Tagan. Between the magic that allows Mathias to influence animals and Tagn’s ability to control fire, the couple is seemingly set to have a life of relative ease.  Wyn is the wizened mentor who’s run out of time to teach Mathias about strange people and events that threaten the world. Instead, he gives Mathias cryptic advice about finding three other magi in order to defeat Melusine. The Inquistion shows up and Wyn is killed a la Obi-Wan Kenobi-style, but not before sending Mathias and Tagan through a circle in the ground to one of the magi that’s supposed to help them.

Finding the other magi is a quest that should change how Mathias interacts with the world. Problem is, Mathias is primarily the same character at the end of the story as he was in the beginning. Yes, he suffers a loss but he’s still a meh character. I hoped there would be some insight into Mathias that would convince me to continue with the series. Yet even now, after re-reading portions for review, I can’t give you any more information about him. And it’s not that Cawkwell can’t write vibrant characters. There are a few great secondary characters throughout the story with intriguing sub-plots – just not enough to entice me to delve further into the series. Though I think Cawkwell has an overall great idea, the absence of a strong protagonist makes HotDK:U a story I won’t remember after closing the cover.

Notable Scene:

“It is clear to me, your majesty,” Josef said, his singsong voice grating on every nerve in Richard’s body. “She has given you her power and whispered her secrets into your ear, and now she wants what is hers!”

“No,” said Richard. “No. There must be some other way.”

“She is a demon, a creature of magic and deceit. You are bound to her as she is bound to you, you cannot escape such a thing.” Josef shrugged. “Unless the Inquisitors have wiped out all magic in the realm.”

The seer prodded experimentally at himself for a few seconds, then giggled to himself. “No, they haven’t!”

Richard got to his feet and moved to the window. “There must be some other way,” he repeated. “I need you to find me an answer.”

He glared at Josef. “I will not give her my son.”

“It seems to me,” said the seer, “that if you want to rid yourself of a magical threat, you get rid of all the magical…things.” He waved a hand, struggling to find the word he wanted to use.

Heirs of the Demon King:

1. Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising

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FTC Advisory: Rebellion/Abbadon Books provided me with a copy of Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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