The Splinter King


Mike Brooks


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

December 19, 2021

he Splinter King is the second book in the God King Chronicles, and it is a well told tale. Despite the huge number of characters and the large area covered, I was able to follow all the different story arcs (and there are plenty of them!) without difficulty. I am not sure where this series is going - the different stories seem only loosely connected, in that they occur in the same world at the same time. But (for example) what Zhenna's exploits have to do with Jeya's adventures is not all clear, it seems that they could be independent stories. After reading the first two books in this series, I am not even sure what the overall plot is: defeat the Golden One? The return of Nari to the throne? The peaceful co-existence of the raiders from the islands of Tjakorshia with the citizens of the Black Keep?

Each chapter title is the name of the character that will be highlighted in that section. Darel, Daimon, Zhanna, Tila, Jeya, Marin, Stonejaw, Nabanda, Saana and Evran all get at least one chapter. The chapters are all interleaved, and often end at a tense moment. But it can be awhile before the reader returns to that particular tale to find out what happened next; which lessens the tension and chops up the narrative.

The majority of the chapters in the The Black Coast focused on Daimon and Saana as these two leaders learned to co-exist, trying to get the citizens of Blackcreek to live along side the Tjakorshians, which made for an interesting plot. But in this novel, Daimon and Saana are mostly just in a background role. At the end of The Splinter King, crisis comes to Blackcreek, and it looks like in the next novel that Daimon and Saana will be in the thick of things once again, but here they are mostly just bystanders.

Meanwhile, Darel, who is Daimon's brother and who was mostly off-stage in book one, enjoys an eventful journey with the Southern Marshal, Kaldur Brightwater, to the capital city of Idramar. Lots of intrigue and danger for Darel, which develops him into a more interesting character.

Zhanna, the daughter of Saana, also gets a much more prominent role in The Splinter King than in The Black Coast. Here, Zhanna leads an expedition up into the mountains and encounters fearsome dragons and treacherous, brutal humans from Darkspur. I really like the "dragons" in this series; it seems clear to me from their descriptions that they are actually dinosaurs. I wonder if Mike Brooks read Dinotopia when he was young. Zhanna's chapters are perhaps the most enjoyable arc in the novel.

Princess Tila, the sister of the God-King, sees a lot of action in the first half of the book, but this time she is in a reactive role, parrying threats against the rule of Natan, her divine brother. But in the later part of the book, Tila and her machinations don't make much of an appearance. Once Tila deals with a direct threat of usurpation, she is out of sight for most of the remaining pages.

Jeya had a big role in book one, and again gets a lot of pages devoted to her tale. She and Galem have escaped the assassins, but it seems someone is still hunting him, and they need to get to the Hierarchs before Galem is exposed as the Splinter-King. (I thought the Splinter-King was supposed to be Nari, the god reborn, but apparently I got that part confused.)

Meanwhile, Marin and his husband start on their own expedition. Along with Ravi, a mysterious healer, they have decided to join an expedition to discover if Nari truly has been reborn, and if he has, then escort his divine personage safely to the palace at Idramar where he can begin his godly rule.

The terrify draug called The Golden, who has ensnared all people of the Tjakorshian islands into his evil demonic schemes, is oddly absent in this book, though ending makes it clear that he will returns for a major performance in the next book.

Although Brooks does a masterful job of keeping all of these characters and story threads going, one aspect of his writing style continues to confuse. I understand Brooks is trying to depict a society that is gender-fluid, but his use of pronouns adds opacity to the text. Female characters sometimes refer to themselves with masculine pronouns. People refer to themselves in the third person. Especially puzzling are the weird characters used with the pronouns: what is the difference between and I? Why does sh have an accent mark that slants to the right, while h has an accent mark that slants to the left? What does it mean when an umlaut appears in the spelling of thir? As I am reading along, I occasionally stumble over these ambiguous pronouns and the narrative will pause while I try to parse what Brooks is trying to say.

Can Mike Brooks wrap up all of these story threads in book three (which will apparently be called The Godbreaker) or will this series continue? Guess I will have to read book three to find out.

*** Spoiler alert ***

*** Don't read next paragraph if you haven't read The Splinter King yet. ***

I thought Galem discovered that h and his family were a fraud. After his family is assassinated and h is gone into hiding, the Heirarchs hold a procession where four new individuals hide behind the shiny masks, and Galem realized that the Hierarchs will place anyone behind the masks and parade them forth as the embodiment of the Splinter King. So why at the end of the novel is Galem proclaiming that h is the Splinter King, when h now knows it was just a fraud perpetrated by the Hierarchs all along? I guess this question will be answered in book three.