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Kings of Morning [Mass Market Paperback]

Paul Kearney
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 28 2012 Macht Trilogy (Book 3)
For the first time in recorded history, the ferocious city-states of the Macht now acknowledge a single man as their overlord. He is not yet thirty years old but Corvus will lead an invasion the like of which the world of Kuf has never seen. A stunning mix of fantasy informed by military and classical history, with the most captivating of heroes.

For the first time in recorded history, the ferocious city-states of the Macht now acknowledge a single man as their overlord. Corvus, the strange and brilliant boy-general, is now High King, having united his people in a fearsome, bloody series of battles and sieges. He is not yet thirty years old.
A generation ago, ten thousand of the Macht marched into the heart of the ancient Asurian Empire, and then fought their way back out again, passing into legend. It has been the enduring myth of Corvus' life, for his father was one of those who undertook that march, and his most trusted general, Rictus, was leader of those ten thousand. But he intends to do more. The preparations will take years, but when they are complete, Corvus will lead an invasion the like of which the world of Kuf has never seen. Under him, the Macht will undertake nothing less than the overthrow of the entire Asurian Empire.

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About the Author

Paul Kearney was born in Northern Ireland. He studied Old Norse, Middle English and Anglo Saxon at Oxford University, and subsequently lived for several years in both Denmark and the United States. His first novel was published at the age of 25 in 1992. He has been a professional writer ever since. At present he and his family live by the sea in County Down, in a croft with a boat by the door. Kings of Morning is the fifth book he has published with Solaris.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Great conclusion to a superior series! Aug. 18 2012
By Patrick St-Denis TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I couldn't wait to discover how Paul Kearney would bring The Macht trilogy to a close. Both The Ten Thousand and Corvus had set the stage for an unforgettable finale, and the author didn't disappoint! Kings of the Morning closes the show with a bang and opens the door for more sequels. A veritable master of military fantasy, Kearney's The Macht trilogy is one of the very best SFF series of the new millennium.

Here's the blurb:

For the first time in recorded history, the ferocious city-states of the Macht now acknowledge a single man as their overlord. Corvus, the strange and brilliant boy-general, is now High King, having united his people in a fearsome, bloody series of battles and sieges. He is not yet thirty years old. A generation ago, ten thousand of the Macht marched into the heart of the ancient Asurian Empire, and fought their way back out again, passing into legend. Corvus’s father was one of those who undertook that march, and his most trusted general, Rictus, was leader of those ten thousand. But he intends to do more. The preparations will take years, but when they are complete, Corvus will lead an invasion the like of which the world of Kuf has never seen. Under him, the Macht will undertake nothing less than the overthrow of the entire Asurian Empire.

Kings of Morning is the thrilling conclusion to Paul Kearney's Macht trilogy.

Once again, this novel is dark and gritty military fantasy at its best. And yet, even though Kings of the Morning is at times all about the stark realism of military campaigns, Paul Kearney delivers more than a few poignant and touching moments that demonstrate just how gifted an author he can be.

It's no secret that Kearney has always been known for his brevity.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent blend of fantasy and historical fiction March 11 2012
By A. Whitehead - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Years ago, ten thousand Macht mercenaries marched into the heart of the Asurian Empire and were betrayed. Only a handful of survivors, led by the famous warrior Rictus, escaped to see home. In the years since then, Rictus has lived through times of peace and war, standing alongside the legendary Corvus as he forged the fractious Macht cities into a single nation. The Macht have now re-invaded the Empire, this time deploying new weapons and strategies that baffle their enemies. But their greatest ally is the division and turmoil that seethes in the heart of the Empire, as the imperial household is divided at the very moment it needs to unify against the invaders.

Kings of Morning is the third and concluding book in Paul Kearney's Macht sequence, which began with 2008's excellent The Ten Thousand and continued with 2010's even better Corvus. As with those books, Kings of Morning mixes fantasy with historical fiction and even a hint of SF: Kuf, the planet on which the books take place, is apparently an alien world and the Macht seem to be the descendants of human settlers/invaders, with the natives a notably different humanoid race. The influence of Alexander the Great on Corvus's story is clear, meaning the general trajectory of the plot can be a little predictable. However, Kearney mixes things up enough to ensure the story never gets stale.

Structurally, the novel is a little different to its two predecessors, which focused almost completely on Rictus's point of view. The opening quarter or so of the novel shows a political crisis within the heart of the Empire, as the brutish heir to the imperial throne, Kouros, and his younger brother engage in a bitter feud, with their father apparently unwilling to intervene. A hapless slave boy is unwittingly caught in the middle of this dispute, to his ruin (a strong stomach is required for the scenes where he is tortured by Kouros). This is an interesting way of starting the book and demonstrates Kearney's impressive power of concise storytelling without sacrificing depth. In this story the Macht are a vague and distant threat, easily dismissed, until it's almost too late.

We then switch back to Corvus, Rictus and the Macht army on the march and are soon back into a world of strategy meetings, comradeship and desperate battles against superior numbers. Yet Kearney, for all his reputation as one of the finest writers of battles working today (in either fantasy or historical fiction), keeps the martial action at a distance for most of the book, instead focusing on Rictus's character development as he sees the culmination of Corvus's plans and starts thinking about his own future. The conflict in Rictus between the lifelong soldier who tires of peace but hates the waste of war is developed well throughout the book and contrasted against the world-weariness of the Asurian Great King, Ashurnan.

Kearney's skills of characterisation are impressive, particularly the attention he gives to Kouros. Though an unthinking, thin-skinned brute, Kouros is given a backstory and motivation that explain why he is the way he is without ever risking him becoming sympathetic, and developing him as a villain (if he's even competent enough to be called that) much more than beyond the initial impression the reader gets of him. Kearney also undercuts the storyline of the two royal twins and their mutilated servant trying to flee into the wilds, with it moving in some very unexpected directions (even if the ultimate destination is unsurprising).

Kearney restrains the military activity to a few brief descriptions of sieges and negotiated truces before giving us one large battle. Inspired by several of Alexander's engagements, the Battle of Gaugamesh is an impressive display of depicting a complex engagement spread over a large battlefield in a straightforward manner. Kearney's skills at writing warfare remain undimmed, but it's his depiction of the aftermath, of the mix of disgust at the waste of life of war and admiration of the heroism of those who endure such hellish circumstances, which impresses the most.

The novel climaxes in a surprising fashion. Whether the parallels between Corvus and Alexander will continue or not is something that is not answered, as this trilogy is the story of Rictus, and that story ends impressively with Kings of Morning. We bow out of the story at this point with the full impression that life will go on regardless.

Criticisms are hard to find. The novel is very concise and at times the reader will want more information, more character scenes, more battle sequences, but these are not necessary for the story Kearney is telling. In epic fantasy it is rare to find an author who leaves the reader wanting more rather than feeling over-stuffed on thousands of pages of needless filler, and the former is definitely preferable. Some may feel the novel lacks a full resolution to Corvus's story, which is fair, but then this trilogy is not about Corvus and it certainly finishes Rictus's story in fine form. Finally, some may feel we don't get any revelations of note about the (possibly techno-organic) black armour of the Macht that makes them so difficult to kill, but again Kearney gives us some clues to be going on with and there are few possible explanations for it that would not veer towards either the obvious or the cheesy.

Overall then, Kings of Morning (*****) is a superb military fantasy novel and a fine conclusion to one of the best epic fantasy/historical fiction crossovers of recent years. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reads Like A History Book (Spoiler Free Review) April 9 2012
By Poisoned Blade - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Although the battles are good and the campaign is gritty, this book really lacks emotion and momentum. It makes you feel like you marched 100 miles with a mouthful of dirt and a spearhead in your gut. What went wrong?

Story:
This is the finale of the Macht Trilogy, but it doesn't feel like it. It has the same characters as the other books, but there really isn't any kind of continuity aside from the battle campaign. (And then Corvus sacked this city... and then Corvus occupied this city... and then Corvus defeated this army...) There aren't any character arcs that continue from book to book and many of the important scenes are written so matter of factly, that they lack emotion.

Kings of Morning chronicles the bloody conquest of Corvus's Army as they attempt to extend their kingdom. The first 130 pages deals with a rival kingdom and how much it sucks to live there. A young boy, wrongfully accused of spying gets raped, tortured, and castrated for no reason. There is dissention within the royal family as well, and these things always get bloody. These scenes just feel thrown in there to make the reader hate these guys, so Corvus can be the good guy as he conquers their cities.

Characters:
You should be able to describe a character without mentioning their job or what they look like. Unfortunately, this is almost impossible to do with the characters in these books.
My name is Corvus and I lead.
My name is Rictus and I stab.
We are soldiers and we do what they tell us to do.
I'm the bad guy and I torture little boys and beat and humiliate women.
There you have it.

Without deep characters, there is only one thing to root for and that's the military campaign of Corvus, which is pretty linear.

Writing Style:
The battles and attention to detail regarding the campaign are great. Paul Kearney also paints a gritty picture of the life of a soldier. This is his strength and very few writers can do this. But there are not enough happy scenes to offset the torture, war, battle, dying, rape, stench of sweat, corpses, etc... The book is really dark. If a soldier marches 20 miles in the blistering desert sun and finally gets a drink of water, it should not taste like horse pee. And even if it does, it should taste wonderful to the character because it's keeping them alive. You need little happy things every so often or you'll just depress your audience.

Unfortunately, many of the dramatic scenes are mostly told to us and don't really unfold. The main story really isn't presented to us in a way that we can root for the characters. This is mostly about a linear military campaign.

World Building:
This reads like a desert region in the Bronze Age. Soldiers march with spears and take on other cities. There is also very little detail about the cultures of each race. There're no fantasy creatures, magic, etc... It's pretty basic.

Action:
The action is epic, gritty, and leaves behind miles of corpses. There are fights, sieges, battlefields, armies on the move, etc... This is the strength of the book. You really get a sense of what it is like to fight in a battle line against a charging horde of enemies.

Maturity: Mature
Kid Rape, Gore, Violence, Torture, Language... This book is pretty hard core and kids shouldn't read it.

Overall:
The Macht Trilogy
The Ten Thousand was just OK.
Corvus was a Great Book.
Kings of Morning takes a big step backwards and is just OK.

This book has great battles and tactics, but it's lacking in a few major areas. The characters don't grow and develop. Many of the conflicts are resolved so quickly, that there is no drama or suspense. You just read, "And then these guys surrendered to Corvus." There should be a scene where Corvus can't afford to fight these guys because his men are exhausted and wounded, and can't waste the time or resources to fight them. Maybe winter is coming and the passes will be snowed in. Maybe another city will get reinforcements within the month, and they have to sack it as soon as possible. If they can't sack it soon, they'll be outnumbered 5 to 1. These perils should be explained to the reader and they should be given time to think about the consequences. This leads to suspense and drama.

Many of the characters lack personal goals outside of the military campaign. I know that this is hard to write with soldiers hundreds of miles away from home, but there's gotta be something in their lives besides sticking a spear into a rival soldier. Maybe two soldiers are competing against each other in enemies slain, scars, collected ears, or loot. Maybe there's a scribe in the company who is writing about the soldiers and they're all trying to find ways to separate themselves from the average grunt. Maybe there's a trash talking guy in the group.

The lack of character arcs also hurts. Maybe a new soldier who is deathly afraid of battle becomes a hero. Maybe a veteran loses his humanity because he has seen so much death. Maybe a hero loses a leg and has to deal with it. Maybe there's the guy who gets promoted to Captain, but isn't qualified. Maybe there's the guy who is qualified and gets overlooked...

Sadly, all of the characters in this book are flat.

Read this book if you like gritty chronicles of soldiers and epic battles.
Read this book if you like visceral and intense action.
Avoid this book if you can't handle kid rape.
Avoid this book if you need deep characters.
Avoid this book if you like high fantasy with magic and dragons.

If you enjoyed this book, read Hawkwood and the Kings by Paul Kearney or any of the David Gemmell books, especially Legend, Waylander, Sword in the Storm, Winter Warriors, or the Lion of Macedon. If you want more character, read the Blackhearts in the Warhammer Universe. If you want more fantasy and can handle evil characters, check out Malus Darkblade or The Grimblades, also in the Warhammer Universe.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great conclusion to a superior series! Aug. 18 2012
By Patrick St-Denis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I couldn't wait to discover how Paul Kearney would bring The Macht trilogy to a close. Both The Ten Thousand and Corvus had set the stage for an unforgettable finale, and the author didn't disappoint! Kings of the Morning closes the show with a bang and opens the door for more sequels. A veritable master of military fantasy, Kearney's The Macht trilogy is one of the very best SFF series of the new millennium.

Here's the blurb:

For the first time in recorded history, the ferocious city-states of the Macht now acknowledge a single man as their overlord. Corvus, the strange and brilliant boy-general, is now High King, having united his people in a fearsome, bloody series of battles and sieges. He is not yet thirty years old. A generation ago, ten thousand of the Macht marched into the heart of the ancient Asurian Empire, and fought their way back out again, passing into legend. Corvus's father was one of those who undertook that march, and his most trusted general, Rictus, was leader of those ten thousand. But he intends to do more. The preparations will take years, but when they are complete, Corvus will lead an invasion the like of which the world of Kuf has never seen. Under him, the Macht will undertake nothing less than the overthrow of the entire Asurian Empire.

Kings of Morning is the thrilling conclusion to Paul Kearney's Macht trilogy.

Once again, this novel is dark and gritty military fantasy at its best. And yet, even though Kings of the Morning is at times all about the stark realism of military campaigns, Paul Kearney delivers more than a few poignant and touching moments that demonstrate just how gifted an author he can be.

It's no secret that Kearney has always been known for his brevity. In the past, his books featured minimal worldbuilding that didn't intrude on the storytelling, and the narrative was never bogged down by frustrating info-dumps or long-winded elaborations. And yet, for the first time, I felt that Kings of the Morning would have worked even better had it been longer. Several storylines converge and are brought together, and though the book makes for an incredible reading experience, I feel that it would have benefited from a higher page count. True, Kearney was able to build on the events of both The Ten Thousand and Corvus, which allowed him to flesh out his world and its people to no small degree. But still, just a bit more depth would have made Kings of the Morning the fantasy novel of the year. As was the case with its predecessor, the narrative is written with tight focus, keeping the pace fluid and making Kings of the Morning impossible to put down.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Paul Kearney doesn't get the credit he deserves for his characterization. Once more, the man came up with a disparate yet amazing cast of characters for this one. Much like in Corvus, there is also a great balance between the various POV sections, with the novel focusing in turn on Rictus, the slave boy Kurun, the Great King Ashurnan, Lady Orsana, and Prince Kouros. Seeing events unfold through the eyes of such different protagonists imbues this book with a human touch that elevates this work far above what is the norm in military fantasy offerings.

I doubted that the author could outdo himself and top Corvus. And yet, he did just that! Kings of the Morning delivers on all fronts. As is usually Kearney's wont, the book features terrific pace, a grim and stark setting, superb characterization, and bloody and violent battles. Doubtless, Kings of the Morning definitely is Paul Kearney writing at the top of his game.

A brutal and uncompromising, yet surprisingly touching, tale of warfare and conquest written by what could well be the most underrated talent in genre. That's Kings of the Morning in a nutshell.

Paul Kearney has written one of the fantasy novels to read this year. Kings of the Morning is a sure candidate for the best fantasy book of 2012!

Along with C. S. Friedman's the Magister trilogy and R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing, Paul Kearney's The Macht trilogy can stand tall as one of the best speculative fiction series to have been published since the turn of the millennium. And like these aforementioned series, Kearney's latest creation remains inexplicably underrated and criminally unread. . .

An awesome conclusion to a superior fantasy series.

Check out Pat's Fantasy Hotlist!
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars July 6 2014
By Ole Sailor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Excellent book - item was as advertised and shipping was excellent
4.0 out of 5 stars P kearney s clAssic May 14 2014
By Kite - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It s paul kearney s classic
But the bttles r too easily won, no advesaries infront.
The ending was good but i was hoping for more development
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