Humorous in spots (“with all the speed and grace of a drunken tortoise” “I prefer to be the only one with a sword when I’m with a woman”), sexy in other places, readers who enjoy expansive fantasy novels will likely relish THE LAST SEER KING by S.J. Hartland, especially if they’ve enjoyed its predecessor (this is the second installment of the author’s Shadow Sword series). Readers who have not yet read the first book, The 19th Bladesman, may find the vast array of new and returning characters a bit daunting, especially as spells/curses bring swordsmen back to life trapped in bodies not their own.
Luckily, there’s a glossary of sorts at the end of the book defining the people and places of this larger-than-life world: the famed bladesman Kaell and his lord, Val Arques. The ancient king Roaran and Dannon of the Varee society of slavers. Manipulative Myranthe and her complicated siblings. The blood-drinking God Archanin. Reminiscent of Aztec mythology with threats of hearts being torn from people’s bodies upon ritual platforms, this is a wide-ranging fiction reality for readers who favor fantasies featuring ongoing aspects of war and dark sorcery. It may not particularly resonate with readers who prefer well-developed characters that one can genuinely, empathetically root for. For example, though the fact of a certain character’s transformation is reiterated often, one does not always feel what it’s like to be a talented male swordsman suddenly trapped in a pretty woman’s body.
Though too many scenes are overly familiar from the stock repertoire of plot points many fantasy novels utilize, some interesting ideas are also explored such as the concept of magic-only procreation (no sex necessary)…and bloodlines as a reality not attached to bodily forms. One main, interrelated pitfall to this epic work: because characters remain underdeveloped, the novel’s format of regularly jumping back and forth between them soon becomes more frustrating than riveting. Such a complex structure generally works best when readers are breathlessly following the plights of characters for whom they have been made to deeply care. Still, overall, THE LAST SEER KING is an impressive undertaking which a certain segment of fantasy readers will likely enjoy.
THE LAST SEER KING by S.J. Hartland is a breathtakingly epic world of its own filled with warriors and slaves, torture, intrigue, gods and ghouls, bonds of friendship, bonds betrayed, and negotiating the consequences of dark magic.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader