The Black Coast


Mike Brooks


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

August 14, 2021

saw The Black Coast on the new paperbacks shelf at the library, and picked it up, though I had heard nothing about the book or the author. The premise on the back sounded unique and interesting - the citizens of a keep on the coastline see an armada of ships sailing in, and they know what that means: raiders coming to loot and pillage. But when the ships land, the people on the ships are not here to raid but instead they hope to peacefully settle (though why don't they aim for a deserted stretch of coastline and start a new colony there?) They are fleeing their home islands, and need a place to start anew. That was certainly a different plot than any other fantasy novel that I can recall reading, so I checked the book out of the library. Once I started reading, I enjoyed the story. This is definitely not a stand alone novel, clearly there is more to come (after all, the cover calls it Book 1 of the God-King Chronicles, though the God-King himself appears only in the prologue). Hopefully this doesn't devolve into an infinite series, I find that I can't read more than three books (four at most) in a series before my attention wanders to something else.

There are a couple of threads in this book, and by the end of the novel, they have not even begun to intertwine. The main thread is the story of Daimon, the adopted son of the Lord of the Black Keep, and Saana, the chief of the Tjakorsha raiders. It was Saana's idea to lead her entire tribe away from their homes on the Tjakorsha islands because a malevolent demon has taken control of the island tribes, and Saana wishes her people to live without fear and malice. Daimon, his brother Darel, and his father see the large number of arriving boats carrying the invaders, and know that they have no hope of repelling such an invading force, so they resolve to go down fighting. But when Saana offers a truce instead, Daimon takes a risky chance that her offer of peaceful settlement is genuine, and an uneasy truce is formed.

The majority of the novel describes these two mistrustful, disparate cultures attempting to form an society. Beliefs and customs are different. Daimon and Saana constantly must tamp down angry feelings that arise from misunderstanding or just pure malice. There is violence and developing relationships. A plague had swept through the Black Keep ten years earlier, greatly reducing the population, so there is plenty of space to house the newcomers. There are fields to sow and fish to catch.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character. Usually it is Daimon or Saana, but there are other characters, such as Saana's teenage daughter Zhanna. Although the cast of characters is large, it wasn't difficult to keep track of who was who ( I hope I remember them all by the time book 2 of the God King Chronicles is published). I did get confused with some of the pronouns - Brooks tries to portray a society with gender fluidity (I'm not sure how to describe it), and so the pronouns used are not always referring to the expected person.

The story thread that does not involve the Black Coast concerns the machinations of Tila, the princess of the Narida empire. There are rumors that the Splinter King exists, and he is a threat to the rule of the God-King (the God-King is Tila's brother). Tila plots to have the Splinter King and his family assassinated before they can develop into a serious threat to the Naridan rule. Tila journeys to Greater Mahewa, chasing a rumor of who is the Splinter King (the Splinter King and his family always appear wearing masks, so their identity is unknown). In Greater Mahewa is a young teenage street urchin named Jeya. Jeya survives with petty larceny until she attempts to steal from a wealthy boy that she should have left alone. Amazingly, the boy lets her go, but Jeya is intrigued by him, and soon finds herself involve in affairs far above her station.

I liked the world that Brooks has created. It has demons and dragons (though his dragons sound more like dinosaurs to me - the description of the dragon that Daimon rides sounds like a triceratops), it has societies and cultures and a few unique mannerisms in the way that they speak. The paperback is 624 pages long, but it did not feel like a story padded with extraneous subplots or unnecessary descriptions. This was a good book, and I hope that whenever the second chronicle comes out, that I find it.