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Gold Throne in Shadow by M.C. Planck ARC {4 Stars}

Gold Throne in Shadow is the second installment in the World of Prime series, which places modern-day mechanical engineer Christopher Sinclair into a fantastic medieval world far, far from home.  There, he is a fish out of water in the classic tradition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Outlander, and Magic Kingdom for Sale.   In this case, Sinclair is really out of his element because magic is real and the monsters that trouble the human population have the power balance so strongly tipped in their favor that magic is the only thing keeping society afloat.  Then, our hero realizes that the laws of physics work as he expects …. and the feudal society gets pulled into the flintlock era and is given a real, fighting chance.  

Note: I received an advanced copy of Gold Throne in Shadow from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Gold Throne in Shadow by M.C. Planck ARC {4 Stars}

Gold Throne in Shadow by M.C. Planck (World of Prime #2)
Published by Pyr on October 13, 2015
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Page Length: 315 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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Christopher, raised from the dead and promoted to a moderate rank, takes command of the army regiment he trained and equipped. Sent south to an allegedly easy posting, he finds himself in the way of several thousand rabid dog-men. Guns and fortifications turn back the horde, but Christopher has other problems that cannot be solved with mere firepower: a wicked assassin; hostile clergymen; dubious allies including a bard, Lalania, with a connection to a mysterious group of scholars; and worst of all his own impolitic tongue. But all of these pale into mere distractions once he discovers the true enemy: an invisible, mind-eating horror who plays the kingdom like a puppet-master’s stage. Lalania claims she can help--but will it be enough?

4 Stars

Strengths:

  • I love characters that are trying to do the right thing under difficult circumstances.  All Christopher Sinclair wants to do is figure out how to go back home, but to do that, he needs power and allies, and he does it the only way he knows how – through improving local technology and pushing back the big, nasty monsters in his way.  The challenges arrayed against Christopher were sometimes so great that I had to set the book down and do something that was very anti-grim before I could watch one more seemingly impossible situation.  Sinclair himself, however, seems to be getting used to facing the impossible, making cynical jokes and wisecracks that the reader will enjoy … but that baffle his compatriots.
  • Planck’s world-building is very interesting in both good and bad ways.  Magical skills are elevated through ingestion of a substance that you can only gather from dead people and animals, which puts a nasty price on life but also severely limits the use of magic to those people powerful enough to get it.  And power begets more power in a world that seems to be always at war.  I have read that the world’s rules of magic have been likened to that of a role-playing game, and I think it’s a fair comparison.  When certain large reptiles showed up, I definitely felt as if I was in a D&D game with a game master who had an odd sense of humor.  
  • Some of the secondary characters are fun to read.  The Bard Lalania at first reads like a game character, but she becomes more complex – and is obviously torn between loyalties by the end of the book.  And some of the other people in Christopher’s retinue have obvious game-like backgrounds but with unexpected twists that pop out when they are alone with Christopher.  Actually, it makes me wonder if Christopher has accidentally gotten himself pulled into a Dungeons and Dragons game …… possibly, that hypothesis is rendered moot by the activity in the first book, but since I didn’t know how he ended up in this world, I’m going with that idea for now.
  • As so often happens with review books, I got tossed into the series starting with the second book, but I was not – generally – lost.  Having reached the end of this one, I want to go find a copy of the first book and find out how Christopher got himself into this little problem …. mostly because I find that I kinda like the poor guy.

Weaknesses:

  •  Many of the secondary characters are a bit two-dimensional, hugging closely to epic high fantasy templates with little chance to become more.  The only two female characters don’t talk to one another because they don’t like each other, which seems unrealistic to me.  Surrounded by guys, I’d talk to the only other woman in a fort even if she were my mortal enemy.
  • The world building is interesting, but some of the twists really do seem to be out of the mind of a teenaged game master.  I won’t ruin the surprises!!!  But this is definitely NOT a Brandon Sanderson novel.

Summary:

If you like fantasy role-playing games and always wondered what it would be like to throw a few guns and cannons into the mix, you should read this series.  While it is grim at times, it is a pretty quick read with plenty of action, a hero that is often perplexed by his predicament but who refuses to give up, and a pretty steady supply of gentle twists to the fantasy genre.  

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Barbara

 

 Gold Throne in Shadow by M.C. Planck

© 2016, Barbara. All rights reserved.

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