The Usurper is the third and final entry in Rowena Cory Daniells’ The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin. Published at the beginning of the month in succession after its predecessors, The King’s Bastard (review here) in July and The Uncrowned King (review here) in August, this book brings this strong series to a satisfying close. Once again, readers will be delighted by Daniells’ skillful plot manipulation and the book’s exciting action and lovable characters.
Now a slave, Piro finds herself in the royal palace of Merofynia, serving her parent’s murderer. She must watch every step, for if her real identity is discovered, she will be executed.
Fyn is desperate to help his brother, now the uncrowned king of Rolencia. Byren never sought power, but finds himself at the centre of a growing resistance movement as people flee Palatyne’s vicious soldiers. Can he hope to repel the invasion with a following of women, children and old men?
Generally speaking, when it comes to the third novel of a trilogy the one things people want to talk about is the ending: was it good, was it bad or was it only okay? So don’t worry, I will be getting to that in a minute. But first it’s probably still a good idea to go over the rest of the novel - you know, the stuff that happens before the ending.
The Usurper picks up the stories of Fyn, Byren and Piro not too long after where we left them off in The Uncrowned King. Byren is mounting his resistance while trying to remain as secretive as possible; Piro is about to be given away as a slave to her opposite number in Merofynia, Isolt Kingsdaughter; and Fyn is caught up in the misadventures of the sea-hounds who’s ship he is a prisoner aboard. From there on Daniells takes us through some of the most twisting and turning 490 pages I’ve ever read. Though really, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise after what we’ve been through in the first two books. Things are quickly coming to a head as the outcome draws ever closer leading to a greatly enjoyable, high tension level.
This in turns leads to a break-neck pace - once again just like in the first two books - but it feels even faster than in the Usurper’s predecessors. I would say a bit too fast, even. It often feels as if Daniells is trying to fit more into this final volume than it can comfortably hold. Events feel unnecessarily rushed and are diminished by the speed at which the reader whisks through them. Also, the narrative gets to be a bit jumpy because of this with characters bouncing around in different places all over the world within pages. As a comparison, in The King’s Bastard and on more than one occasion we spent a significant amount of time following a character moving across only Rolencia, while in The Usurper, characters go from one country to another - and often back in no more than a couple of chapters.
In short, The Usurper’s narrative suffers from its relatively shorter length. I like both longer and shorter books, and this is a case when the story would have strongly benefited from being longer. In any case it simply seems odd to me that a novel with more tell (The Usurper) comes in shorter than one with less tell (The King’s Bastard).
And now we come to the important part: the conclusion. What to say? The Usurper brings the storylines of the Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin to a satisfying, if a bit odd, close. I would also say a bit of underwhelming end. Seeing as so much was built up to this it all seems very little to finish on in terms of story arch as well as character development. But who knows, maybe Daniells has got a sequel trilogy in mind?
As negative as the above review might seem, The Usurper is not all bad. In fact it’s mostly good just maybe not as good as what come before it. Readers of the first two books though should definitely be continuing on this one, if only to finish it. I also still strongly recommend beginning the trilogy if you have not already. As for more Rowena Cory Daniells, she has already sold to Solaris her next trilogy, entitled The First of the T’En, is set to be published in 2012.
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Reading Age: 15 and up
Rowena Cory Daniells' Website: http://www.corydaniells.com/
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