Twelve Kings: The Song of the Shattered Sands (Song of Shattered Sands 1) by Bradley Beaulieu (book review).

January 21, 2016 | By | Reply More

‘Twelve Kings’ is the first in as yet unnumbered series of books but given that there are 12 kings in all and the female protagonist wishes to kill them all I’m guessing there might be 12 books altogether.

This book is based in the city of Sharakhai, situated in the middle of a massive desert which makes it all very Arabic in feel. Sharakhai used to be an oasis and meeting point for the local tribes but, in time, it became a massive city which the tribes then fought about as it was felt that the city was taking people from the tribes. The rulers of the city asked the gods to help them defend the city and they answered by allowing the kings to protect the city in return for a blood sacrifice. The kings and the city survive to this day but only as long as the blood sacrifice happens every six weeks when the two moons rise together. We follow the female protagonist, Ceda, who is a pit fighter and her friend, Emre, an odd job man and market worker as they both try to fight the twelve immortal kings who reign over the city of Sharakhai.


Ceda has a massive reason for wanting the kings dead as they appear to have killed her mother when she was a small child for the secrets her mother and how to destroy them. However, as we discover that although this is an excellent reason to want them dead, there are some far more interesting reasons relating to the way they came to power and how the kings are all immortal as all is not as the kings would have the population believe. Emre for his part joins with a group called the Moonless Host who are tired of the way the kings treat their citizens and want things to change but it a much more violent way than Ceda has in mind.

Everything in Sharakhai feels new to the reader, as it’s not the traditional medieval setting for a fantasy book, it feels very magical and mysterious which I really enjoyed. It’s a really brutal place along with the beauty of the city, if you step out of line then there are terrible ways to die both inside the city and outside. Ceda as a pit fighter sees a lot of the brutality that the city can show its citizens, she also knows it’s due to the way her mother was killed and then strung up outside the palaces having had her body carved with various sigils.

There is also a small amount of magic in the shape of special flowers that offer the user extra strength and speed and also stones that can allow the user to talk through or to the dead. Oh and there are some pretty scary creatures that live outside the walls of the city that help in the six weekly blood sacrifice. I would like to see more of the magical elements in the next book to see where author Bradley Beaulieu can take these ideas.

During this book, we do change point of view fairly often so we get to see things through Ceda, Emre, the kings, and various other people’s eyes. We also step back in time to get some back story as well. I found this to be easy to follow as each chapter is headed with a particular image that lets the reader know who we’re following.

Having said that, this does mean that there are a lot of threads to follow as Ceda and Emre both follow different directions to the deaths of the kings, plus there are other political elements with reasons to kill the kings as well. I didn’t find that any of the chapters were overly long and all the information in them seemed to be useful to me as a reader but it is all rather a slow build-up to just find out that all I’ve really read is an introduce the next book with only a little plot of its own towards the end of the book where it all kicks off.

This is one heck of a book in terms of the amount of reading time you will have to set aside, and not only that but, as I’ve said, this is not a stand-alone so you’re going to have to read a good few more books in this series. The ending of this book is not entirely tied up neatly, although it’s not a massive cliff-hanger neither so, technically, I guess you could finish after reading this book. Personally, having invested so much time with this book I want to carry on with the series, there are some elements that I want to find out more about, especially to do with Emre.

Overall, I would say that I enjoyed this book but it wasn’t something that I constantly wanted to pick up to read, it didn’t capture my interest to that extent but I am looking forward to a hopefully more dramatic next book.

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Sarah Bruch

January 2016

(pub: Gollancz, 2015. 725 hardback. Price: £20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-47320-300-6)

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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