Review of Lord and King by P.L.Stuart
“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.”–Lao Tzu
If P.L.Stuart’s A Drowned Kingdom was the warmup, and The Last of the Atalanteans the first pitch, then Lord and King is a ninth inning walk-off home run. In this third book, Othrun faces unexpected challenges that make him question his faith, leadership, and moral compass. He must also determine who he can trust among his allies and enemies. Betrayal, in a time of swords and arrows, can often prove lethal.
Full disclosure, I received an Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which in no way influenced my opinion or the contents of this review.
The novel begins strong with a deftly written hook in the first twenty pages. I did not see it coming. Like after a jump scare in a movie, my skin continued to crawl as I read on. I am always filled with physical reactions when I read P.L.Stuart’s novels; this has been true of every single one of his books. I am anxiously expecting the fourth novel in the series, A Lion’s Pride, which is due out next year.
In Lord and King, Othrun is a marked man, a target on his back, and needs allies if he is to attain his—let’s be honest here—egotistical desire to rule the entire continent of Acremia. Yes, Othrun, Lord and King, Othrun the bigot, Othrun the racist and bloodthirsty knight is back, and he is in charge, or so he thinks.
Othrun is perhaps the most complex character I have ever read. The reader gets a glimpse into Othrun's fractured psyche through his internal conflicts between his upbringing and the outside world. Othrun the King is flawed in many ways, but it is his ability to be human, to mourn in the face of great losses, to listen and consider other’s points of view, to feel, portrayed with Stuart’s usual literary brilliance, that connects me to the sometimes unlikeable protagonist. I love the idea that someone raised with prejudice does not have to be locked into a singular way of thinking. Will Othrun become the good man he believes himself to be?
In book two of The Drowned Kingdom Saga, Othrun states, “All good kings are killers, and all kings good killers.” However, in Lord and King, we see another side of Othrun. A king who asks not only if he will be a good king, but if he is a good man. Othrun, it seems, has grown a conscious. As in Stuart’s previous novels, he tackles some difficult themes; bigotry and racism are openly discussed, and not in pursuit of solutions. Thematically, Othrun serves as a powerful societal metaphor. His strict adherence to Atalantean values in a land with divergent views represents the inherent tension in any society undergoing cultural or political change. His struggle to balance these contrasting values mirrors the real-world challenges faced by leaders in multicultural societies.
P.L.Stuart’s Lord and King is an epic tale of political ambition, power-hungry struggles, and moral quandaries, set against the beautiful backdrop of a world steeped in intricate and fascinating histories. Stuart’s genius when it comes to writing engaging and vivid accounts of the brutal world of medieval warfare cannot be understated. I often re-read these scenes as in the moment I am furiously turning the page to find what’s next, such is the frenetic pace of these violent clashes.
I am very much looking forward to the fourth book in the saga next year and the remaining novels of this seven-book series. I am also humbled that P.L.Stuart chose my review of The Last of the Atalanteans to be published in the reviews section of this book.