Saturday, March 20, 2010

“King Maker”, by Maurice Broaddus (Angry Robot)


King Arthur’s legend gets dragged into 21st Century Inner-City Gang Culture

On the streets of Indianapolis, the ancient Arthurian cycle is replaying in the lives of rival street gangs.

Told through the eyes of King, as he gathers like-minded friends and warriors around him to venture into the fastness of Dred, the notorious crime lord, this is a stunning mix of myth and harsh reality.

King Maker has an awesome premise, and for the main Broaddus is able to pull it off with aplomb and skill. His characters are realistic and well-crafted, the dialogue authentic and gritty, the environment and city expertly realised on the page. The story is interesting, even if you’re not overly familiar with Arthurian legend, and there’s enough in it to keep you reading until the end. Broaddus has done a fantastic job of reinterpreting the characters from the legend. Uther Pendragon becomes Luther King; Arthur becomes King James White; Merlin is the odd white guy, Merle.

In a great example of mashing-together genres, Broaddus mixes in some great social and racial commentary in King Maker, avoiding clichéd approaches and comments, making it an intelligent as well as fantastical read.

I have to be honest, though – this wasn’t the easiest book to get into. The prose style, rhythm and pacing don’t make this initially the quickest or easiest read; things unravel slowly (the prologue is over-long, for example), but this does have the benefit of letting us get to know the characters. King and his crew are interesting, well-crafted, and three-dimensional, again avoiding clichés and cringe-worthy tropes.

This is really a great idea for a series, and I would recommend it to anyone, though I would also have to add the caveat that it’s not the easiest book to get into, and doesn’t necessarily grip you as quickly as the premise might suggest it would. The book has been described as The Wire meets Excalibur – an apt description, but I’d add some of The Sopranos, too.

As a first instalment of a trilogy, this is very much the various pieces being moved into position on the chess board, awaiting further story development (in the forthcoming King’s Justice and King’s War). An interesting new voice in urban fantasy, and one that deserves your attention.

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