The book took me far longer than intended, thanks to a decided lack of listening time in September and October, but this in no way affected my enjoyment. THE FALL OF THE KINGS is every bit as wonderful an audio as SWORDSPOINT and THE PRIVILEGE OF THE SWORD. Kushner’s narration is stellar, and the dramatized scenes (which include a performance by Sherman in her audio debut), are a wonderful accent. I spent an ungodly amount of time wriggling in my seat and/or dancing as I listened, simply because I was so glad to experience the book this way.
Which isn’t to say it’s an entirely happy book. For all its enjoyable qualities, it’s quite dark in places--by which I may mean it’s quite dark overall. I have a terrible sense for what is or isn’t dark, so I suspect other readers may consider this book rather more wretched than I myself did.
Which is to say: there’s madness and cruelty and other fun stuff like that. Be forewarned.
This time (my third pass through the book in any format), I thrilled to all the old joys: Basil’s campaign for primary sources; the students’ many discussions about the nature of history and scholarship; the pervading focus on academia and learning; the glittering, aristocratic world to which Theron feels at odds. Whenever I paused to consider the book, though, I found myself most fascinated with the way Kushner and Sherman handle the magic.
THE FALL OF THE KINGS is a Return of Magic book. The inhabitants of the unnamed City and the country it governs over have had no truck with magic for at least two hundred years. Many believe it’s no more than a myth or a metaphor, and even those who give it some credence agree it’s long gone from the world.
That changes when Basil, the book’s scholarly protagonist, comes across the long-lost Book of the King’s Wizard. The spells Basil performs exert a desperate control over both Basil himself and Theron, the book’s aristocratic protagonist (and Basil’s lover). Kushner and Sherman’s magic reads (or listens) like a live snake in the hand; an unruly force whose goals are not always those of the person who wields it. Kushner’s dramatic narration and the musical score that accompanies each spell underscore this point and lend the magic an even more frantic, otherworldly feel. It's an ethereal force, and not something one can necessarily understand in its entirity.
This is my favourite sort of magic: rich, strange, and difficult to fully wrap one’s mind around. I reveled in it.
Hell, I revelled in the whole thing. After nearly a month and a half of interrupted listening, I finally made time to push through the last couple of hours in a single go. It was totally worth it.
If you enjoyed THE FALL OF THE KINGS in print, you surely want to get the audio. Hell, even if you’re totally new to this world, the audio (and, of course, the print edition) are well worth your time. Just be prepared for some spoilers, both overt and implied, for SWORDSPOINT and THE PRIVILEGE OF THE SWORD.
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, especially with an audio title like this one. If you're in search of a way to listen to (or read) THE FALL OF THE KINGS, you can try:
- Audible - Solo Edition (audio; for purchase or via one-month free trial, along with a second freebie)
- Audible - omnibus with the rest of the series (audio; for purchase or via one-month free trial, along with a second freebie)
- Kobo (e-book; for purchase; coupons don't work)
- The Book Depository (paperback; for purchase; free shipping worldwide)
- Amazon (paperback & Kindle; for purchase)
I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you buy the book through one of the links above.