The second volume of 'The Valerian Chronicles' begins with the story of Thorngere, a Lord of Valeria and loyal subject of the High King. He has travelled the land spreading word that Valerius Everreigning still lives in the hope of establishing a resistance network to free the Empire from the tyrannical rule of Fantar. King Valerius meanwhile has been secretly building up his forces in the hope of reclaiming his throne but did not anticipate for certain events to transpire. Now he must choose to either enter into battle before his side is fully ready or risk the destruction of his land and its people.
'Valerius the King' is the second book in this new fantasy series however it can definitely be enjoyed as a complete story in its own right. From the beginning I was able to follow the characters and actions which occurred without being expected to have prior knowledge of this world. A number of references made to events in the past tugged at my curiosity and helped to create a rich and highly developed society. The action started immediately and I was thrown into a world of political manoeuvring, raw fighting action and sexual desire. T.R.Rankin managed to build up a brilliant and realistic relationship between Thorngere and the young female dancer Vahla, over a very short time. Although the main character of the book is the King, Thorngere and Vahla play an important role and directly impact the King's behaviour and decisions. He also cleverly used these two people to provide shocking revelations later in the book which were completely unexpected. I found myself at times wanting to scream at the characters because I had become so deeply embroiled in their emotional affairs and state of mind. Valerius himself was a fascinating man to read about because of the inner turmoil he suffered and the fact that he was, at times, uncertain of the best decision to make. It made me realise that even those who we look to for leadership can sometimes need guidance of their own.
I found it easy to get into this story with its simple, flowing writing style. The author manages to convey emotions adn the characters' thoughts in a vivid way, and keeps description of the setting to a minimum allowing the reader to fill in the details for themselves. A lot of effort has gone into researching the technology and way of life for the period in which the tale is set, however at times I felt that the inclusion of certain inventions was clumsily done. It would have been better to take an idea from the developed world and simply use it without going into lengthy explanations and detail which detracted from the main plot. The blatant copying of items (e.g. catamaran, toilet cistern etc) is my only criticism in an otherwise brilliant fantasy story. I cannot wait to read the final instalment and see how Valerius uses his new power and army to eradicate the usurper Fantar.
Reviewed by Helen Kerslake
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