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Cover art illustrated by: Adam Paquette
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Series: Song of the Shattered Sands (Book #1 of 6)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 584 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 3rd September 2015 by Gollancz (UK) and 1st September 2015 by DAW (US)
For me, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai has everything except the most important one: characters to care for.
Believe me, no one is more saddened by this rating than I am. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu has been on my radar since 2017; the cover art of the entire series looked spectacular, and everything I’ve heard about it sounds like this is going to become one of my favorite series. Heck, if you followed my Booktube channel, you might have seen that one of the videos I posted in December stated that I included this series as one of my priority series to start and finish within this year. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen now.
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is the first out of six books in the Song of the Shattered Sands series by Bradley Beaulieu. The story revolves around Ceda, and the narrative juggled the past and present timeframe of her POV chapters. Honestly speaking, this novel started out strongly for me; in the first quarter, I was delighted and convinced that the rest of the novel will be as impressive. Sadly, that just didn’t happen. The more I read the novel, the more I’m bored and disappointed with it. It is such an odd thing to experience, and I am so conflicted because there were indeed some incredible moments within the story. However, their quality was ultimately diminished by the brutally slow pacing and a severe lack of distinct characterizations. The conclusion at the end was too short and anti-climactic, too.
It was incredibly difficult for me to care about the characters. Ceda, Emre, and practically everyone had no distinctive voice to me; I personally think Beaulieu didn’t spend a lot of focus on characterizations that would’ve made this book more amazing. As I mentioned, there are two timeframes in the narrative, but the flashback chapters were relatively not beneficial to the overall narrative. This is coming from me, a reader who actually loves reading flashback chapters in their fantasy novels. Many authors have the capability to use flashback chapters to deepen the characterizations of their characters and flesh out the world-building; The Gentleman Bastards by Scott Lynch and The Licanius Trilogy by James Islington are great example of this. Unlike these two series I mentioned, the flashback chapters here felt as if they’re fillers; they didn’t add anything to the book except to increase the page count. I found the flashback chapters decrease the quality of the narrative; the plot moved like a snail. Seriously, I finished this 600 pages novel, and it felt like so little has happened.
I am disappointed, but most of all, I am sad that I couldn’t fully enjoy reading this novel. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai was a mixed baggage for me; it has a vivid setting, lore, and immersive world-building, but at the end of the day, my reading experience suffered due to the lack of distinctive characters—I seriously think all the POV characters sounded the same—for me to feel invested in plus the ultra-slow pacing. I might give the sequel a try to see whether things improve or not in the future, but I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon—or ever—with more than 300 hundred books on my TBR pile.
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