Seven Princes by John R. Fultz (Books Of The Shapen: Volume 1) (review).

This book, ‘Seven Princes’, strikes me as a bit of a conundrum. It has all the tropes of a modern, hard edge fantasy in the vein of Martin, with a little bit of the ridiculousness of 60s Moorcock. It’s a strange balance and one that doesn’t quite stop seesawing back and forth throughout. To make the balance even more off, it sometimes veers into the sort of storytelling that you would find in a comicbook. In other words, everyone dies, but hey, it’s a story Fultz can bring them back! Perhaps John Fultz is a fan of the Marvel Way.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this. The characters were interesting, the plot was solid, if a little been there done that, but overall, it wasn’t a book I would insult.

The story follows paper-thin Prince D’zan (don’t ask for a pronunciation here) and seven other various princes. D’zan is forced to leave his home kingdom when an old wizard appears, dies and then comes back again and attacks the kingdom with an army of undead. This is whilst three princes deal with a suicidal dad and the implications of giants dying out.

Now all of this seems a bit vague and that’s kind of because it is. As a novel, it never really goes deeper than a pretty bad gash. It seems to be unwilling to do any sort of real characterisation. There are two maybe three characters that are expanded upon and, surprisingly, D’Zan is not one of them. He has a small amount of characterisation but nowhere near as much as others. This is not necessarily bad as this can be put down to a quite misleading blurb. He wimps out of fights and spends the majority of the book whining about how he’s not as good as everyone else. Which isn’t a bad thing, an unsure protagonist I can deal with, but he just annoyed me. There are only other two others that are characterised but I can’t say much about them as, unfortunately, that would be a long drop into spoilers.

OK, plot is in place. So now the prince heads off to find allies to help him win back his kingdom. All the while, an ancient wizard, who actually could really do with a bit of the three-dimensional treatment, shoots out back story and maybe a little bit of motive. Then people turn giant and spew dimensions on each other and a dragon gets smushed under the earth.

That is one of the big problems I had with this book. It doesn’t really have a concern factor to it. People get killed, sometimes subtly but mostly horribly and everyone talks about how much is at stake but as a reader you don’t really feel how much is at stake.

Oh, and the giants! They’re very well done. It’s an individual take on a well-trodden trope and I liked it.

That being said it is only the first book in a series and whilst I had a few qualms I did still enjoy it, and almost hypocritically, I am excited for the next one. Hopefully, it takes all of the seemingly ridiculous aspects and runs with them. Even though it goes pretty widescreen pretty quickly I hope Fultz has the balls to go with this, up the ante and make it even more absurd. I would like a series where you look back and go, ‘Hey, remember when he turned into a massive mountain-sized giant and fought another mountain sized giant.’ Yeah. You haven’t seen anything yet.

Fultz has started a story that is both ridiculous and awesome. The potential is there to keep going and make a massive, epic, ridiculous canvas of a story that blows your mind. But I hope he finds time to squeeze in a wee bit more characterisation to make me care even more, because I want to care.

Bring on the sequel.

Ewan Angus

(pub: Orbit. 497 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-356-50081-2)
check out websites: www.orbitbooks.net

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