I can’t remember how long I’ve had Blood of Kings on my to-read list, but it is good that I finally got my hands on and sunk my teeth into it.
The story follows two characters: Achan Cham, a boy from society’s lowest caste; and Lady Avrella, a noblewoman and heir to her family’s duchy. Achan dreams of becoming a squire, and eventually a knight, so that he might marry the woman he loves and live quietly. Avrella is forced into hiding to avoid the advances of a power grubbing swine, but wants nothing more than to marry her own beaux. Achan’s aims are too high for his position, and Avrella’s are too low, but then destiny rolls in and throws a monkey wrench into everything.
Don’t you love it when that happens? It’s always great reading about it in someone else’s life, but not so much when it’s our own, though, isn’t it?
The two are put on paths that lead them together and onto a wild adventure when it’s revealed that Achan is actually the true prince, and the man everyone thought was the prince is actually an impostor and a pawn. After that, Achan is put on the run, with a disguised Avrella and handful of loyal knights in tow, and as they flee the enemy they grow stronger, gathering people to their cause until both parties meet in grand battle for control of the kingdom.
It’s a classic model of a story, and I loved it.
What was different, at least for me, was the strong spiritual vein laced throughout, guiding the story along. Much of Achan’s struggles weren’t just with surviving being hunted by his old master ─ and in fact that was but a small part ─ but with accepting his roll as crown prince and future king. That position is far outside of what he ever wanted in life, and yet he comes to the point where he accepts that and pursues it. He also struggles with the vices of his forefathers, in regards to women, and while the subject is never a comfortable one to confront, I can appreciate Williamson’s willingness to delve into it without shying away. It’s something I’ve not met in Christian fiction before, and it made me think of David. He was a man after God’s own heart, but one doesn’t get far into the biblical account before meeting with his failures and flaws. David was far from perfect, and the decisions he made sometimes caused problems and much grief, yet he always turned back to God. His faith made him great, and over the course of the story we see Achan do much the same, coming to faith in Arman and pursuing a right relationship with him, leaning on him to give strength and power to defeat the enemy and push back Darkness.
In regards to Avrella, I think we can all relate to her in one way or another. She wants what she wants, justifying her actions with either her fear or her faith. She struggles with her image, believing she isn’t beautiful and attractive. She wants everyone around her ─ Achan especially ─ to make sacrifices for the greater good, but isn’t willing to do the same in respect to herself. She is a willful character and increasingly conflicted as her prolonged deceptions build walls between her and the people she loves (throughout half of the story, everyone around her believes she’s the boy she’s disguised herself as to hide from the advances of above mentioned power grubbing swine).
I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, and the witty banter between Achan and Avrella was a hoot. Their relationship as so convoluted and complicated until the last few chapters that it was a huge relief once they finally got themselves sorted out. It was obvious that they would end up together by the end, and it was a ride watching how they both changed over the course of their adventures. No one got what they thought they wanted, but they did find their heart’s desire, once they gave up their own plans for the greater purpose and having faith that Arman would guide all things to his good, pleasing, and perfect will.
Aside of all this, the writing itself was well done, I felt. Williamson creates vivid imagery that captures the imagination and gives a clear picture of both the physical aspect of a scene as well as the emotions evoked by them. Reading this trilogy was a treat and I am so glad I had the opportunity to be involved in the Kickstarter, which not only allowed me such beautiful copies of the hardcovers, but has given rise to the production of audiobook versions of all three books, making them even more accessible to a broader range of readers.
Check out Williamson’s website and blog for more about her and her impressive collection of stories!