Kings of the North by Elizabeth Moon

a review by Rebecca Muir

Kings of the North is the second book in the Paladin’s Legacy series. King Kieri of Lyona is settling into his reign and seeking to establish a better economy and protection for the kingdom, while dealing with constant hints about marriage and heirs and trying to forge a more constructive co-reign with his enigmatic elven grandmother. Neighbouring Pargun is threatening war while offering a wife and something is troubling the taig, the essence of life which it is his duty to protect.

While Kieri has his hands full, Duke Dorrin is also busy back in Tsaia. She must not only use all her newly discovered mage powers to protect her people and the king, she must also learn the diplomacy necessary to her rank. Many in the court distrust her because of her family name and her powers.

Meanwhile, Arcolin, now commander of Fox Company, is coming to the conclusion that the bandits he has been hired to deal with in the south are much more than they appear. Is this a threat not only to the south but to Tsaia as well?
I really enjoyed this book. Elizabeth Moon has created an interesting world with some strong characters. The book jumps around between characters and locations a bit, but I didn’t find it frustrating as some books are. At every scene change I was drawn straight back into the new story thread. Elizabeth Moon’s writing style is engaging and descriptive. I felt caught up in the story the whole way.

The book deals with the idea of honour, and what makes a man a good man, one worthy of respect. There are characters with a chequered past, but Elizabeth Moon gives us an insight into their motivations and their internal struggles. We see that although not perfect, they are characters we can empathise with and who are living by their own code of honour, following their conscience.

The book is also about confronting and dealing with hurts and grief from the past, so that you can move on and live your life. It is about being willing to forgive yourself and also to change yourself.

Some other elements of the book that especially appealed to me included the exploration of what it means for Kieri to be king and lead his people – to stand with them and among them, but also in front of them to protect them and provide for them, and to heal them (reminiscent of Lord of the Rings). I liked the portrayal of faith in the book – it wasn’t presented cynically as superstition, but that there was real power, and that the power of good was triumphant over evil.

I have not read the other books set prior to this series (such as The Deed of Paksenarrion books), and there were a few things which were obviously assumed knowledge. However, I was able to follow along fairly well, and I would say it is not essential to read the prior series first. I would recommend reading Oath of Fealty, the first book in this series before Kings of the North, and these books have whetted my appetite – I’m going to be checking out the local library to look for the Paksenarrion books.

I would highly recommend this to fantasy fans. There is a bit of battle action (although nothing really gory) and a touch of romance. There is political intrigue and there is just plain good storytelling. I’m eagerly anticipating the third book, which is due out soon!