"The King's Justice" by Stephen R. Donaldson. A Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Stephen Donaldson bundles together two unrelated, but artistic tales that go different directions in the 307 page paperback, “The King’s Justice.” Both novelettes are easy to read, engrossing, and propel the reader’s imagination toward the climactic finale. These short stories can be enjoyed by both younger and older adults.
The title tale, from which the book gains its label, swirls around Black, Settle’s Crossways and the gruesome, heartbreaking murder of a young lad. As things unfold, Black, a veteran of the Balance Wars, takes on the role of detective in a township that doesn’t want to disclose the murder to this stranger. Yet it becomes rapidly clear that there are sinister forces at work and lurking in the woods, and circumstances are showing that Black needs to act quickly. As a major structure in the storyline, the author does delve into a deity-less perspective that seems to echo the Buddhist four Great Elements or energies (catudhātu) that must be kept in balance. This may be problematic for certain readers, yet it could also make a great discussion-starter between parent and child, teacher and student.
The subsequent story, “The Augur’s Gambit,” develops more slowly, yet still maintains a fresh pace. In the reign of Queen Inimica Phlegathon DeVry, court and country intrigues are emerging that threaten her crown and the wellbeing of the island state, Indemnie. The Queen’s hieronomer, one who reads the future from the offal, blood and organs of slaughtered animals, has foreseen treachery that will be the end of Indemnie and the Queen’s royal line. To his dismay, he finds out that the Queen herself is hastening the moment and exacerbating the situation! But his loyalty to his Queen and his country will only draw him to make sacrifices unlooked for, and come to perceive things unforeseen.
“The King’s Justice” is a fun volume to slide down into. The story line is unobstructed by profanity or erotic scenes, and moves along nicely. The endings are pleasantly crafted and satisfying. In the end, the book would make a great gift for young adults, and can be a friendly diversion for grown-ups. I gladly recommend the book.
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