Thursday, November 27, 2014

Review: The King by Tiffany Reisz

Cover art for The King, featuring a pale-skinned woman's naked back tinged in blue. She lays on her left side.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Listen, I know how y'all look at series reviews. I say, "THE KING is the sixth book in Tiffany Reisz’s fabulous Original Sinners series," and you decide to read some other post on some other blog because you figure this one ain't relevant to your interests. I'll either yammer on about characters you don't care about or I'll spoil the rest of the series for you. Right?

Not so much. While THE KING is the sixth book overall, it's the second chronicle of the White Years; that is, the period in the early- to mid-90s when the Sinners came together and began sinning in sync instead of all by their lonesomes. It's not a standalone prequel--the framing story contains some spoilers, and you'll get the most out of the core story if you've already read the first five books--but it's the sort of thing a body can review without spoiling the rest of the series, even as she (hopefully) gives some sense of whether the newbies among you want to rush out and get THE SIREN.

(You do want to rush out and get THE SIREN. It's awesome, and it leads into even more awesome1. I understand if you want a few more reasons to do so, though, so read on.)

THE KING begins in 1993 and focuses on the origins of Kingsley Edge’s BDSM empire. Kingsley is 28, newly wealthy, and at loose ends when his former lover, Søren, reenters his life in need of a big favour. In the process of helping Søren deal with a certain fifteen-year-old delinquent’s legal problems, Kingsley lights upon an idea: he’ll use his considerable resources to build the kinky kingdom he once promised to lay at Søren's feet. And if his efforts also give him the chance to take down a fundamentalist church that ruthlessly torments LGBT youth, well, so much the better.

Even though THE KING is a prequel, it does feature a number of callbacks to things we heard about earlier in the series. Plenty of elements from the flashbacks in THE PRINCE crop up again, and we finally get to meet the much-vaunted Sam Reisz has been teasing us with for book after book. And perhaps mostly importantly, we see how Kingsley and Søren turn their sexual relationship from THE PRINCE into the friendship evident throughout the other books.

We see little of Nora, but that's all right since a) THE KING takes place before she and Kingsley formally meet, and b) said formal meeting was well-chronicled in THE SAINT.

Nora or no, THE KING is absolutely addictive for all the same reasons the other Original Sinners books go down so smooth. Addictive element the first: very nearly everyone in the entire series is a kinky bisexual, and Reisz never fades to black. If a chapter ends with two characters about to get it on, they will get it on on the very next page. In detail. With some sort of cane or whip involved. The only circumstances under which we don’t hear everything about a sexual encounter is when Kingsley, whose tight third person POV drives the text, isn’t present--and even then, the participants are likely to fill him in on the most important details afterwards.

Addictive element the second: Reisz’s characters are fabulous whether or not they're in bed (or on floor, or beside pool, or strapped to rack) with anyone else. I was particularly delighted with Sam, who proves just as lovable as she’s always seemed from the hints dropped in earlier books. Reisz does a thorough job of setting the stage for Sam; of making the reader really, really want to meet her. What's more, Sam’s off-page presence in the other books can't help but influence the reader's response to everything she does throughout THE KING. It’s beautifully done.

And of course, Kingsley himself is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. He's been an interesting guy all along, but but THE KING really made me like him. We spend the entire book inside his head, whereas before he’s either shared the POV duties or come to us through other characters’ eyes, and Reisz does a wonderful job of transporting the reader straight into his emotional state. He’s an easy guy to empathize with, in large part because of the friendships he cultivates with Sam and Søren. I am such a sucker for a good friendship, especially when it comes complete with plenty of banter. He cares about the people in his employ, too. If you're one of his employees, he's in your corner--until you betray him, at which point you become dead to him.

At least in theory. It's far harder to repudiate people than it seems on paper.

Addictive element the third: Reisz's writing is elegant, evocative, and easily scannable. There’s no need to concentrate on the meaning of it all because the words serve as the clearest possible conduit for the story. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is never simplistic, but it also isn't showy. No mental gymnastics required; the natural flow of the dialogue and the description carries you through with zero difficulty. Each of the books approaches or surpasses chunkster status, but they’re wicked easy to devour in no time flat because there's no barrier between the reader and the story.

Addictive element the fourth: THE KING is a How Stuff Works book, and y'all know How Stuff Works books are my favourite thing. Reisz delves into the nitty gritty of building a sex empire and stopping evil preachers from exploiting queer teenagers in one fell swoop. Both excellent goals, well executed with periods of understandable downtime as Kingsley pauses to figure out how he'll overcome each new challenge.

I couldn’t put it down, y’all. I spent hours on end grinning and gasping and bouncing around excitedly because it was just so good.

And for those of you interested in what's going with the sinners in the present, THE KING's framing story gives us an update on Grace and Zach and links in with the framing story from THE SAINT. Things are Afoot, and you can bet I'll get myself a copy of THE VIRGIN as soon as I can so I can discover how it all comes togehter.

So, yes. You want to read THE KING, but you don't want to start here. Go back and get THE SIREN. I know it seems like I’m asking a lot of you, expecting you to read five other books before you get to this awesome little number, but I promise you it’s no hardship. My reaction to the first five books ranged from “I love this!” to “OMG WHAT ARE WORDS,” and y’all know I’m one picky reader.


While I always advocate your local library as the absolute best source for books, I recognize this may not be an option for everyone where every book is concerned. If you're in search of another way to read THE KING, you can try:

I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you buy the book through one of the links above.

  1. I read the first four books while I was between blogs, so I never reviewed them, but they totally blew my mind. Book #4, THE MISTRESS, was one of my best books of 2013. I had no choice but to binge-read it in a single day.

    Like, imagine Jackie Collins with better writing and flawless internal consistency, and you’ve got Tiffany Reisz. Her books are wild, crazy, and packed with emotion. I gulp ‘em down like nobody’s business.


  1. I've been meaning to try Tiffany Reisz's books for a while now (I've been following her on Twitter for aaaaaaages), and this review is a good reminder for me to make time for "The Siren." Thanks! :)

    1. I think you're going to love THE SIREN. It's so good! And it sets the stage for so much more goodness!