Michelle West – The Uncrowned King

The second book of The Sun Sword fantasy series by Michelle West is somewhat unusual. It has the density of an urban fantasy novel while it is quite longer in length and the density has a greater focus on character building. What it has familiar to an urban fantasy is that, obviously, all events take place in a large city, all those events take place in a short span of time and there is hardly a moment of rest. The size of the cast is however much larger and with multiple viewpoints from which the story is narrated the reader gets a much expanded and layered story.

The Uncrowned King (1998) thus holds an extensive combination of elements that are usually not used together. Doing so certainly can be difficult. The novel has at times the rush of the urban fantasy and at other times the depth and moments of contemplation a more psychological novel. West has crafted this very well. There is plenty of variation in the sequence of many events that take place. They are merged so well within the greater plot that they actually form the keystones that make the story powerful and engaging. I say this because the actual greater story is rather cliché and in most cases not that interesting. West uses the greater story as a vehicle for the more important events that are relevant to the series.

While the story of The Uncrowned King has many layers and is complex the greater plot of the series is barely moved forward. This is actually the main complaint one can make on this novel. West has expanded what is in essence a simple sequence to its maximum extent, thickening it with many small subplots and details, exploring characters and creating many interactions. It is a ‘tour de force’ to make so much from so little. It shows a great skill and a love for the characters. We get to know them much better and West creates a strong connection to pretty much all of them.

The Uncrowned King is very different compared to its predecessor The Broken Crown. The latter had a slower general pace that spanned a greater period and there was a gradual buildup to the greater plot. The Uncrowned King does not wait long before the reader gets into the action and West holds that pace until the very end. Although plenty happens they are of lesser significance than those in The Broken Crown, which has a real and complete story of its own. As explained before the story of The Uncrowned King had much less significance within the greater story. It are a number of the minor events which provide a further buildup towards the next novel.

I enjoyed this novel greatly. It is a real pageturner as the moments of contemplation are no more than that. It never take long before the reading excitement raises to great heights and West keeps this up throughout the whole book. Despite possible negative comments this one is highly recommended.

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