Book cover: The Fall of the Kings - Ellen Kushner & Delia ShermanA new generation dominates Riverside and the Hill. But old allegiances are coming to the fore. Kings and wizards have long been studied at the University, but as Northerners cry out for the return of the King, Basil St Cloud and his students may find their studies more political than historical. And the Hill has a history of solving political differences with swords…

Okay, I’m going to come out and say it: I am yet to be engaged by The Fall of the Kings. I’m fascinated by the glimpses of history – and I nearly cried when I discovered the Queen who founded the Union was a Diane – but I’ve not fallen straight in love with any of our protagonists.

Although I started out positive towards scholarly Basil St Cloud, and the narrative gives us lots of reasons the other characters like him, the more I read the less I do. I can’t yet tell whether I’m just getting to know St Cloud better as the story unfolds, or whether he’s being influenced by Forces As Yet Unknown. But there’s nothing quite like the concept of ownership to put me right off a person, and the kick he appears to be getting from possessing Theron Campion leaves me utterly cold.

Theron Campion is a chip off the old block, but I like him best when he’s behaving like his father. I haven’t learnt to like him for his own sake yet, although his mother Sophia is adorable.

Duchess Katherine remains remarkable, although I’m a little sad she appears not to have found a life partner other than Marcus (now married to another woman, although the three of them may have many understandings). She is formidable and ferocious and nothing like Diane, which is no bad thing. But she doesn’t appear to have changed the world after all (although it’s worth remembering that The Privilege of the Sword was written after The Fall of the Kings).

In fact, my favourite character so far is probably Nicholas Galing, ambitious young spy for the Serpent Chancellor. We’ve barely seen him, but he leapt straight off the page at me: smart, wary, keen, and a little unclear about what he wants on a personal level. I ship him and Theron, which is almost certainly not going to happen, but will live in my head as one of those things that must have happened after some wild party in their youth.

Even if I didn’t know that The Fall of the Kings was co-authored, I think I would know – the prose style here is different to the other two novels, as is the focus. That’s not a problem – there’s many interesting stories to be told in this world, and it’s beautifully writter – but I miss a feminine perspective.

I’ll continue on as I trust Ms Kushner & Ms Sherman, and I’m curious to see where they take this (there is much intrigue. I am intrigued); but there’s some work to be done to get me as emotionally engaged as I have been with the stories so far.

…as an aside, I’m assuming Jessica is the Black Rose’s daughter, which is silly as I don’t recall how many siblings Alec and Janine had. But I’m doing it anyway.

As usual, our reactions as we read are captured on Storify (thanks @effingrainbow!).

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