A disfigured orphan plans his revenge on those responsible for the death of his mother & his exile.
A younger prince searches for a way to prove his worth and discovers a power believed lost.
A novice priestess is determined to remake her order as she sees fit.
Kings of Paradise is not for the faint of heart but it does let you know this upfront. Any book where the first paragraph has a main character intent on cannibalizing someone he just killed can’t be accused of not giving you fair warning.
A lot of work has obviously gone into this book, beginning with the world building. Distinct nations, races and locales are well-developed so that each stands out. There is also a great sense of history in the world as well, with lands having their own legends and traditions, some of which the characters either find themselves victims of or look to turn to their advantage.
Each of the three main characters are given chapters from their point of view to advance the story. Ruka is probably the most difficult. Beginning as a child, shunned and cursed by everyone except his mother, he quickly develops into a ruthless killer as well as the above mentioned cannibal. He also seems capable of great mental feats, including his creation of a mental place which echoes the mind palace of another famous cannibal. As the years pass, and he attains his first measure of revenge, his goals begin to change, becoming more enamored with building his own myth and launching conquest.
Kale is the one in the most traditional (and least blood-thirsty) mold. Being the younger son of a king, he has no especially defined role and is put into military service, then later a monastery, in hopes he might find a place (or be out of the way). As he progress, he begins to show both a natural leadership and a strong independent streak.
The third character, Dala, is somewhere between the two. Driven to protect those close to her but equally ruthless to those she considers threats. As she begins to gather influence to herself, both those aspects grow in tandem, as does her ambition.
The characters almost never interact, with only a single (but important) meeting between two of them. It seems as if the majority of of that will be saved for future installments which I will be eagerly awaiting based on this. Having said that, it does connect to one of my few problems with the book. The chapters aren’t necessarily distributed evenly, focusing more on completing one story before switching. While I can understand the reasoning, more than once I did find myself wanting to get back to one of the other characters. But that’s only a minor quibble compared to the riches Kings of Paradise offers.