“The rich “learn lessons.” The poor commit crimes. “Mistakes” are generally considered a mark of the middle class.”
So what’s the book about?
Fearing an uprising, the Sphinx sends Senlin to investigate a plot that has taken hold in the ringdom of Pelphia. Alone in the city, Senlin infiltrates a bloody arena where hods battle for the public’s entertainment. But his investigation is quickly derailed by a gruesome crime and an unexpected reunion. Posing as a noble lady and her handmaid, Voleta and Iren attempt to reach Marya, who is isolated by her fame. While navigating the court, Voleta attracts the unwanted attention of a powerful prince whose pursuit of her threatens their plan. Edith, now captain of the Sphinx’s fierce flagship, joins forces with a fellow wakeman to investigate the disappearance of a beloved friend. She must decide who to trust as her desperate search brings her nearer to the Black Trail where the hods climb in darkness and whisper of the Hod King. As Senlin and his crew become further dragged in to the conspiracies of the Tower, everything falls to one question: Who is The Hod King?
These aspects attracted me the most while reading.
- A distinct difference from The Hod King is the way the story was told. So far, each book has been told in its own unique way and in the third volume, the author has again managed to weave something completely new into an old familiar. This book was divided into three parts, each with its own plot line and set around the same time. Instead of sliding them on top of each other, they were told separately, almost like turning back the clock and starting from the beginning. Since the main characters in each of the three parts have completely different goals and their paths don’t cross, the format worked. It was even fun to see what happens to the other team members elsewhere. It is exciting how the author manages to introduce a completely new way of storytelling in the middle of the series and still maintain the charm of the book.
- I really enjoyed the first quarter of the book, which focuses mainly on Senlin. This part began to recapture the sense of adventure from Senlin’s rise, where he had to use his intelligence and cunning to get by, but as usual kept stumbling as his continued naivety led him to miscalculations and bigger problems. He comes tantalisingly close to achieving various goals, only to see it all snatched away from him in one way or another. In the later sections, when he again narrates from his point of view, it becomes apparent that he has become satisfyingly capable and cunning, and it seems that he has managed the difficult balancing act of being a fierce villain when necessary, but somehow always remaining morally grounded and consistent.
- In The Hod King, the focus is on the conflict escalating within the walls of the Tower. In this episode we see the plans that the Sphinx has for the future of the Tower, along with Luc Marat’s plan to overthrow the Sphinx as leader of the Hod revolutionaries. We see the politics and intrigue that goes on among the rich and elite of a particular ring kingdom (Pelphia), and we see the stark contrast between their lives and those of the common Hods. Senlin is sent to Pelphia as a spy for the Sphinx, but he can’t help but want to know where to find his wife, and sets out to find her, against the Sphinx’s explicit instructions. Meanwhile, the Sphinx has another task for Edith, Voleta, Irish, Byron and even the Red Hand. The plot is just exquisite in this volume, I love political stories and I realise that this is the preparation for the next volume which shows revulotion. This is exactly what I expected from this book from the beginning and now I am getting the first glimpses of light in my beloved setting.
The third book has finally almost fulfilled my expectations of the series. At last, beginnings are created of how the tower will be destroyed (or so I hope). Political themes and revolutions are my favourite topics in fantasy books, which is why the book was able to sweep me away in many ways. Nevertheless, I have to say that the charm that was especially in the first book is not quite there anymore. The mysterious setting falls away more and more, which is of course understandable as we get to know the tower more and more. Since book two was more of a prelude to book three, and book three was able to carry off that prelude, I liked the third volume better, but still can’t match book one.
So what are my final thoughts about it?
An excellent continuation of a wonderful story. I often couldn’t stop reading late into the night to find out what happens to a beloved character, of which there are now many. There were sections that built up to emotional highs and lows, surprises and cliffhangers galore. There was no let-up in the fast-paced tension and the ever-present sense of danger. That being said, the characters we loved in the first two books are made even more lovable here and some new favourites are introduced. The book continues to be extremely creative and original, with excellent world-building. And Bancroft’s prose is top-notch, often finding the perfect way to explain what’s happening in a fresh and beautiful way. It was a pleasure to read and I can’t wait for the final book.
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