Sovereign’s Wake, the debut novel by Lee Lacroix and the first in In The Absence of Kings series, is a classic good versus evil story set in a medieval world. Garreth, once a Crown Aegis warrior and now keeper of the King’s Forest, lives with his son Novas in a remote area of the forest, far from roads and towns. The forest is their sacred trust, and when Novas finds men chopping down trees, it is the beginning of the end of their quiet life.
Garreth challenges the men, only to find his King is dead and they are destroying the forest at the behest of the Queen. As tensions and actions quickly escalate, Garreth realizes that he must return to the city, to his old friend Berault, and into rebellion in an effort to save his people and their world.
The story is a solid if somewhat predictable medieval fantasy, with strong world-building. In fact, the first third of the novel is primarily world-building, along with setting the stage for the conflict. This section in particular suffers from too much telling and not enough showing: there is not a lot of dialogue, and what there is often consists of Garreth telling Novas what has happened in the past, in long, unrealistic monologues unbroken by reaction from Novas or emotion on Garreth’s part.
Once past this section, though, the writing improves. Lacroix has a flair for description, although some sentences could be tighter and more active. It is very clear he’s done his research on sword training and other skills, and descriptions of these activities are among the best writing in the book. The dialogue also improves, into more realistic give and take exchanges. We are still told of characters’ reactions to things rather than shown them in many cases, and characters also remain somewhat two-dimensional: they are clearly good or clearly bad, and there is little depth on either side. This lack of complexity makes them a bit less appealing to an adult reader.
The e-pub version I read had a few production errors, mostly in first-line indent spacing, but not more than I find acceptable.
Overall, I’m giving Sovereign’s Wake three stars; the novel is an honest effort from a young writer whose skills should improve with time and maturity. I’d be likely to suggest this book and its sequels for younger readers rather than adults.
The author provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.