The Black Coast (The God-King Chronicles #1), Mike Brooks. New York: Solaris, 2021.
Summary: Former enemies seek refuge with the people of Black Keep against a backdrop of political infighting, intrigue around the succession of the God-King, and the rise of a sinister power.
The sight of the ships stirred alarm among the Naridans living in Black Keep. Decimated by plague and remember the last visit of the Tjakorsha raiders, they prepare for a desperate fight. Then leaders of the Tjakorsha come ahead under a flag of parley. Lord Asrel and his sons Darel and Daimon come to meet them. Saana Sattistutar, the woman warrior leading the clan doesn’t propose surrender, but rather peaceful co-existence of their two peoples. Asrel breaks the truce of the parley in striking out against the Tjalkorsha. Slaughter and a war resulting in the likely defeat of the Naridans is averted by Daimon, Asrel’s adopted son, who takes charge, imprisoning his brother and father.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this book, the first in The God-King Chronicles, are the encounter of these two peoples, two cultures with two differing religions, two differing moral codes. The Tjakorsha have men and women who only mate with each other. The Naridans have six shades of gender between any two of which sex is acceptable. Yet Narida is patriarchal while Tjakorsha’s women lead and fight alongside men. Are their differences too great for co-existence to be possible.
Daimon and Saana try to work out their differences, against a backdrop of other events that could change their world. Conspirators from Black Creek send an emissary to report on the blasphemous alliance of the two peoples, with the objects of bringing a force of Naridans who could end up wiping out both peoples, except for the conspirators. Then their are the concerns of the family of the God-King. Natan, the current God-King loves men, and has no successor. His sister is far more Machiavellian than he, recognizing the threat of the Splinter King, and acts to remove it while a rich young man becomes romantically involved with the thief who had picked his pocket. The most sinister of all is the demonic tyrant, The Golden, who subjected all the Tjakorsha except for Saana’s clan, who fled. His lieutenant, Rikkut is sent with a large force after her, another threat to Saana’s people and those of the Black Keep.
This book caught me by surprise. It started out with Natan and Tila which was kind of ho-hum until the scene shifts to the confrontation of those of the Black Keep and the Tjakorsha. For a while it was hard to keep all the different characters and plotlines straight, and then it started making sense and I found myself getting more and more drawn into the world Brooks was building. Then there are the war dragons and the kraiks, sea monsters that threaten every voyage! The cultures, the creatures, the characters, and the plot all come together to make this a page-turner. Even secondary characters like Darel or Saana’s daughter Zhanna are interesting and play crucial roles.
Dang, another series to follow! But this looks to be a good one.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. The opinions I have expressed are my own.