The Heretic Kings, volume two of Paul Kearney’s five part Monarchies of God series, picks up events precisely where Hawkwood’s Voyage ended. No dip in quality or style, the story continues in exactly the same multiple-viewpoint, character and plot focused fashion.
The Heretic Kings broken into three parts, the first and third relate events on the Nimmerian continent. Albrec, the monk at Chalibron, furthers his research in the archives and discovers documents he was not intended to, putting his life in danger in the process. Around him, the church continues its press for power, consolidating its allies with treaties and bullying, excommunicating those who disagree with church policy. Abelyn, after he and Mark’s disavowal of church rule in Voyage, heads to Abrusio, only to be waylaid along the way, casting his country’s fate into doubt. In the east, the Merduks are quiet, collecting supplies and men for another major offensive on Ormann Dyke. Corfe, however, is quite active, and after being sent to the city of Torunn, acquires a new commission from the city’s mysterious sorceress queen.
The middle section of the book picks up events with Hawkwood and Murad on the “newly discovered” western continent. The crew, having enough trouble in the hot and humid jungle (something like A.C. Doyle’s Lost World), quickly realize they are not the only living creatures inhabiting the land. It is up to Badolin, however, to discover the precise nature of the natives, not everything appearing as it seems.
Kearney, obviously working from a well-drawn story outline, continues to show no inhibition pushing forward the numerous story arcs and character viewpoints. Pace moving quickly, at no time does the narrative get bogged down in lengthy descriptions, character outlays, or time-wasting maneuvers while other areas of the map advance. A couple of new characters are added, but nothing to overwhelm the reader who is already comfortable with the main cast. Digging deeper into history, religion, and the system behind the magic, Kearney also adds more of the world’s background. Albrec’s discoveries in the library are particularly interesting given the religious parallels to Europe, as are the discoveries of Badolin and Hawkwood on the western continent.
In the end, those intrigued by Hawkwood’s Voyage will not be disappointed by the follow up volume, The Heretic Kings. All five books in the series appearing to have been written in one go, style, pace, quality remain the same. Kearney continues writing with purpose, driving the story in unpredictable yet interesting directions that give every hope of coalescing into a major climax at the conclusion of the series. Religion and power, along with characterization and plot, remain the main focuses. Given that the similarities to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and R. Scott Bakker’s Second Apocalypse are only strengthened by The Heretic Kings, I will continue recommending fans of those series to check out Kearney’s.