Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Up To The Throne by Toby Frost
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: The Dark Renaissance (Book 1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, political fantasy
Published: December 18th 2018, independently published
If you’re looking for political intrigue and a badass female main protagonist, Up To The Throne might just suit your fancy.
The setting is inspired by the Italian Renaissance, albeit in a world enhanced by magic and alchemy. There was even a nod to Leonardo da Vinci in the narrative, while referencing to an inventor in this world whom the church considers as a madman. Also similar to our own history of the Catholic Church, this was also a time of the Inquisition who was determined to wipe out ‘heretic’ magic-users.
The story is centred around a revenge plot. Giulia Degarno, our main protagonist, was a female thief who has been severely scarred and left for dead 6 years ago on the orders of a master criminal, Publius Severra. Giulia returns to Pagalia after spending years honing her skills to bring her plans of assassinating Severra to fruition. However, during the course of those long years, Severra has also built significant political strength and is no longer a mere criminal. Strong enough to be in position as one of the three contenders to seize the throne of Pagalia, with the very ill incumbent Prince expected to die pretty soon. With his stronghold over many of the guilds in the city and living in a house that rivals a fortress, how would Giulia ever get close enough to assassinate Severra?
Even though it’s first and foremost a revenge story, the political plotting and scheming play a very large role in the driving the overall narrative. Between these two major storylines, one which I tend to love and one which I don’t, there lies a dichotomy which pulled me in different directions as far as my enjoyment is concerned. I usually love stories about thieves and assassins, but am not a fan of political intrigue especially when it is so dominant in the story. On top of that, the revenge plot was a bit less compelling than I would like it to be.
Nonetheless, there is one major factor that can override any plotlines which I’m not particularly fond of, and that is characterisation. Once I’m invested in and cared for the characters, I can read practically anything about them. So far, I did not feel sufficient connection to the characters to get to that point in this book. This is not to say that the characters are not likeable; there are two supporting characters whom I would like to get to know better. Giulia is also quite a well-written character who is consistent with her motivations. Even though I didn’t like her overwhelming single-mindedness on revenge over all else, the fact that she recognises that it might leave her with nothing else after she has succeeded made her into a more sympathetic character.
All that said, I do think Up To The Throne is a good book that should appeal to fans of political intrigue in fantasy. I also believe that sometimes you need the right book at the right time for that spark to happen – it could be that I picked this up at the wrong time. The writing was able to draw me into the story easily and there’s enough action to inject momentum into an otherwise intrigue-heavy plot. Do note, however, that while there is magic in this world, it does not feature in the narrative all that much, save until the last part of the book. The second book of the series is already available and appears to have less politics and more magic involved. And I’m sufficiently intrigued by the occurrence of dark magic at the end of this book to read it one day.
You can buy a copy of this book from Amazon