A review of Bradley P. Beaulieu's Twelve Kings in Sharakhai

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Bradley P. Beaulieu's Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (the first novel of The Song of the Shattered Sands) will be published by Daw Books and Gollancz in September 2015 (UK edition is called Twelve Kings).

Information about Bradley P. Beaulieu:

Bradley P. Beaulieu began writing his first fantasy novel in college, but in the way of these things, it was set aside as life intervened. As time went on, though, Brad realized that his love of writing and telling tales wasn't going to just slink quietly into the night. The drive to write came back full force in the early 2000s, at which point Brad dedicated himself to the craft, writing several novels and learning under the guidance of writers like Nancy Kress, Joe Haldeman, Tim Powers, Holly Black, Michael Swanwick, Kij Johnson, and many more.

Brad and his novels have garnered many accolades and most anticipated lists, including two Hotties - the Debut of the Year and Best New Voice - on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, a Gemmell Morningstar Award nomination for The Winds of Khalakovo and more:

* Top Ten Book and Debut of the Year for 2011 on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist for The Winds of Khalakovo
* Best New Voice of 2011 on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
* 2011 Gemmell Morningstar Award Nomination for The Winds of Khalakovo
* Top Ten Debut for The Winds of Khalakovo on The Ranting Dragon's Best of 2011
* Top Ten Debut for The Winds of Khalakovo on Mad Hatter's Book Review Best of 2011
* Honorable Mention for The Winds of Khalakovo on LEC Reviews Best of 2011
* Top Five Book for 2012 on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist for The Straits of Galahesh
* 2012 Most Anticipated for The Straits of Galahesh on Staffer's Book Review
* 2012 Most Anticipated for The Straits of Galahesh on The Ranting Dragon
* 2013 Most Anticipated for The Flames of Shadam Khoreh on The Ranting Dragon

In addition to being an L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award winner, Brad's stories have appeared in various other publications, including Realms of Fantasy Magazine, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Writers of the Future 20, and several anthologies from DAW Books. His story, “In the Eyes of the Empress's Cat,” was voted a Notable Story of 2006 in the Million Writers Award.

Brad continues to work on his next projects, including The Song of the Shattered Sands, an Arabian Nights epic fantasy, and Tales of the Bryndlholt, a Norse-inspired middle grade series. He also runs the highly successful science fiction and fantasy podcast, Speculate, which can be found at speculatesf.com.


Website: quillings.com
Podcast: www.speculatesf.com
Twitter: @bbeaulieu
Facebook: facebook.com/bradley.p.beaulieu

Information about Twelve Kings in Sharakhai:

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is the exciting new Arabian Nights-inspired epic fantasy from the critically acclaimed author of The Lays of Anuskaya.

In Sharakhai's cramped west end, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape a living. Like so many in the city, she prays for the downfall of the twelve immortal Kings, but the very thought of a lone woman putting an end to their cruel ways feels ludicrous. This all changes when she defies Kings' law to go out on Beht Zha'ir, the holy night when all are forbidden from walking the streets. It's the night the asirim - the powerful, undying remnants of heroes that have long protected the Kings - wander the city and take tribute. That night, one of the asirim, a pitiful vestige of a man wearing rags and a golden crown, stops Çeda and whispers long-forgotten words in her ear. Çeda has heard those words before, in a book left to her by her mother, and it is through that one peculiar link that she begins to unwind the hidden riddles of her heritage.

As Çeda digs deeper into the origins of the asirim, she realizes that understanding the Kings' pact with the desert gods, the dark bargain that created the asirim long ago, may provide a way of breaking the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai once and for all. And yet the Kings are no fools - they've ruled the desert for four hundred years for good reason, and they have not been idle. As Çeda unearths more of their past, and the Kings come closer to unmasking her, Çeda must decide if she's ready to face them.


This review is based on an ARC version of Bradley P. Beaulieu's Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. Because this review is likely to be one of the first reviews about this novel, I'll try to be informative, but I won't go into too many details about the story and the characters in order to avoid writing spoilers.

Because I enjoyed reading Bradley P. Beaulieu's The Lays of Anuskaya fantasy trilogy (The Winds of Khalakovo, The Straits of Galahesh and The Flames of Shadam Khoreh), his short story collection (Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten) and his sci-fi novella (Strata, co-written with Stephen Gaskell), I was eager to read Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, which is the first part of The Song of the Shattered Sands fantasy series. I had high expectations from this novel and all my expectations were met, because it turned out to be a delightfully complex fantasy novel with a thrilling story, excellent characterisation and superb worldbuilding.

I personally consider Twelve Kings in Sharakhai to be an outstanding and amazing fantasy novel. It didn't take long for me to finish reading it, because it hooked from the start. It's a stunningly effective story about a female protagonist who's looking for a way to avenge her mother's death.

This novel is an excellent example of what a fantasy author can achieve when he has a talent for storytelling and has courage to add originality to the story. In this novel, Bradley P. Beaulieu has done his best to entertain and thrill his readers, because the story is full of depth, fantastic scenes and intriguing characters. I give Twelve Kings in Sharakhai full 5 stars on the scale from 1 to 5 stars, because it deserves these stars.

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is an Arabian Nights flavoured epic fantasy novel for adult readers. A few Arabian Nights flavoured novels with desert settings have been published during the recent years, but this novel surpasses all of them in terms of quality, style, story and characterisation. There's an intimate and touching level to this story that separates it from other similar stories. The author writes so captivatingly about the protagonist, Çeda, that the reader is immediately pulled into her world.

I was positively surprised when I noticed how many dark elements the author had added to the story. They added plenty of freshness to the story, because too many epic fantasy authors dare not use any kind of dark elements in fear of alienating readers.

One of the best things about this novel is that the author slowly reveals things about the world and the characters to his readers. It's great that he doesn't reveal everything at once, because it makes the story complex and fascinating.

Here's information about the story:

- The story begins when Çeda is fighting in the pits. After the fight she meets Osman, who has a task for her. The task must be carried out during the holy night, Beht Zha'ir, when the twin moons, Tulathan and her sister, Rhia, rise together and lit the desert floor, and asirim  - the powerful, undying remnants of heroes that have protected the Kings - roam the streets searching for tributes. It's forbidden to go outside on the holy night, but Çeda accepts the task...

- Çeda wants to see the downfall of the immortal Kings of Sharakhai and wants to see their cruel ways end. She almost has a chance to kill one of the Kings when he walks among ordinary people disguised as a commoner, but can't do anything...

- When Beht Zha'ir arrives, Çeda is outdoors and meets one of the asirim. The asir whispers a few words to Çeda. She recognises the words, because she has read them in her mother's book. The words haunt her and she begins to search for information about her heritage and what happened in the past. This search takes her to new places and she learns new things about her past...

This is the beginning of an intriguing story about vengeance, secrets, magic and friendship.

Bradley P. Beaulieu has a talent for creating three-dimensional and realistic protagonists. In my opinion, he's one of the best authors when it comes to characterisation, because he concentrates on creating good backgrounds for his characters. He develops his characters throughout the story and makes them interesting.

The protaginist of this novel, Çeda, is an interesting protagonist, because she has had a hard life. She's a young woman who has survived by fighting in the pits (she's called "The White Wolf" in the pits).

Bradley P. Beaulieu writes well about Çeda's childhood and her mother, Ahya, who is convinced that the Kings must fall. It was interesting to read about how Çeda loses her mother and what kind of an effect it has on her life, because it has a huge effect on her life. When her mother died, she spent a few years with Dardzada who was a hard foster parent. He taught her much, and he also taught her a few things about herbs.

The author writes about the heat and frenzy of Çeda's pit fights in a good way, because his descriptions of the fights are vivid and realistic. He writes about what kind of moves Çeda makes and how she feels about her opponents. Her decisions feel believable and realistic. This is something that I've found to be difficult for a few modern authors, so it was enjoyable to read about this kind of action in a well written format.

I can mention that Çeda's investigations reveal interesting and shocking things about her past and soon she finds herself in a new position. That's all I'll write about these things, because I want to avoid writing spoilers. I'm sure that readers will enjoy reading about the secrets related to Çeda's heritage, because they're intriguing and well-kept secrets.

The author wrote compellingly about the supporting characters. For Emre (Çeda's friend) was a well-created character. It was enjoyable to read about Çeda's friendship with Emre and Emre's deeds, because these things were handled well.

The chapters concerning Çeda's past are fascinating, because they reveal what has happened to her and why she came to be the person she is now. These chapters add a nice balance and variation to the story.

It's great that the author offers his readers also a King's point of view and tells about how they feel about the happenings and what's happenings in the city and in the desert. The Kings have heard that there's opposition to their rule and there are stirrings in the desert as people gather together to band as one.

The author adds depth to the story by writing about the Qaimiri, Ramahd and Meryam. Ramahd has lost his wife, Yasmine, and his daughter, Rehann, because Macide, the leader of the Moonless Host, killed them. Meryam used to be a gentle and kind person but is now filled with hatred and has become interested in dark rituals. She wants to avenge the deaths of Yasmine (her sister) and Rehann (her niece). Their deaths in the Bloody Passage caused Meryam to become a creature of vengeance (she has honed herself to be ready to kill those who caused her pain). What makes Meryam an especially interesting character is her ability to channel another person's spirit through her so that people can speak to the person.

The worldbuilding is excellent in every possible way. The events take place in Sharakhai, which is surrounded by Mirea, Qaimir, Malasan and the Thousand Territories of Kundhun. Sharakhai is the center for these four areas. The author paints a vivid picture of Sharakhai, its cultures and its people.

Because Sharakhai is a fascinating place, here's a bit more information about it so that readers can see how much effort and imagination the author has put into this novel:

- According to history, Sharakhai originally used to be an oasis, but became a settlement, because its central location made it a convenient place for tribes to meet. Then it gradually became a city. Soon the shaiks brought war to Sharakhai and the Kings called upon the gods and moons to help them. The gods listened to the Kings' plea, but they demanded a price for their services, blood. Volunteers sacrificed themselves so that the rest of them might live. The Kings were granted powers and the ones who paid the highest price became the asirim, servants to the Kings. The asirim were bound to the Kings and protected Sharakhai from her foes. The gods demanded more blood and the asirim returned every six weeks when the twin moons rose.

- Sharakhai is a brutal place to live in, because the Kings avenge all attempts to harm them. If someone tries to harm them - for example, poison them - they avenge it immediately. They mostly rule by the principle "blood for blood" to avoid resistance. Nobody has been able to defeat them yet. The Kings have daughters that are called the Blade Maidens. They take up the sword at an early age and protect their own and the city that the gods have granted their fathers.

The author reveals interesting things about the Moonless Host that opposes the Kings. They are men and women from Sharakhai and the desert wastes who have sworn to fight the Kings. They orchestrate attacks against the Kings and try to strip them of their power. It was fascinating for me to read about what they had done.

Because I'm interested in botany and plants, I have to mention that the adichara trees mentioned in the story are interesting trees. They're thorny trees that grow in the desert. Their blossoms glow blue beneath the moonlight and when harvested at that time they give strength and vigor to a person. A single scratch of their sharp thorns is deadly and can kill a man. Collecting their blossoms and visiting the blooming fields is forbidden.

There's interesting magic in the world. For example, there are stones that can be used to hear thoughts, bleed memories and bring the dead back to life. Using this kind of magic has a price, because the consequences can be serious and deadly. Because I'm fond of the darker side of magic in speculative fiction, the elements related to blood magic were fantastic and appealed to me.

One of the things that impressed me a lot was how well the author handled the events involving the Qaimiri and Hamzakiir, who was the son of the Wandering King. I was also impressed by the way the author wrote about what happened to Çeda when she found out who she truly is and realised what her mother had done and gone through.

The author has found an excellent balance between different elements. The story consists of different scenes and happenings that are touching, informative and brutal in nature. All things related to these scenes are approriately realistic without any kind of annoying melodramatic moments.

I found no faults in the story, because everything worked perfectly and the author had clearly spent time on polishing the story to make it as good as possible. It was great that the author took his time to introduce the characters and the history of the world, because I enjoyed reading about what he revealed about them.

What's perhaps the most amazing thing about this fantasy series is that it seems to be just as good and original as The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy. This is quite an achievement, because The Lays of Anuskaya is one of the best and most original fantasy series written during the recent years. I was impressed by this novel, because it was everything I hoped it would be. It left me wanting more, so I look forward to reading the next instalment (With Blood Upon the Sand). Because the story has just begun, I'm sure that author has plenty of interesting surprises and scenes in store for his readers.

I have a huge respect for Bradley P. Beaulieu, because he seems to care about his readers and delivers good stories. His novels are beautifully and thoughtfully written, and there's no annoying fluff in them. In his novels, everything is connected to each other and little things may mean a lot when the story unfolds.

If you enjoy reading well written epic fantasy, Bradley P. Beaulieu's Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is a must-read novel for you. It's an enjoyable and original fantasy novel for adult readers who want the best from their fantasy novels. If you want depth, style and good characterisation from your fantasy novels, you don't have to look any further, because all of this can be found within the covers of this outstanding novel.

By the way, if you've never heard of Bradley P. Beaulieu, you should immediately check out his novels and stories, because they're excellent. Along with Mark Lawrence, Courtney Schafer, Helen Lowe, Anthony Huso, Rjurik Davidson, Joe Abercrombie and Blake Charlton etc, he's one of the best and most talented new fantasy authors. He dares to write something different and original.

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai may well be the best epic fantasy novel of the year, so make sure that you read it as soon as it's published. It's refreshingly different and wonderfully original, so it'll please many readers who are looking for epic fantasy novels that are worth reading. This novel is so good that it'll leave you wanting more.

My final words are:

This novel is excellent fantasy entertainment for adults. Highly recommended!