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Posted December 5, 2010
Hit and miss
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King Arthur in modern day, gang-ridden Indianapolis, this book promises, and the Arthurian legend is evident in King Maker by Maurice Broaddus. The book opens with the short, dark tale of Luther, gang leader and father to an infant, King James White. Not long after betraying King's mother with another woman Luther is shot, betrayed by his right hand man.
With that, we're told in the tone of a Shakespearean tragedy, the story moves on to King, who is in fact the One True King (albeit rather far from England). Except that despite King's role as the lead he's actually in the book very little.
In fact that's where this whole book stalled for me. Broaddus can clearly write circles around other people, but in this book he writes in circles that have hollow middles. Almost all the focus is on character building, tension building and weaving in the minute details of the re-written mythos. But for a large part of the book nothing happens.
Also, Broaddus spends an exorbitant amount of time building up characters who are ultimately side characters. This leads to next to no connection with King himself and a sense of confusion when major events to happen, or major players are killed. Because the emphasis is on everyone being gray (all the bad guys have a reason for their bad, either playing a role or being crushed by a poor life) is so overwhelming that no one comes out as a compelling or valiant hero.
Fate and legend are powerful aspects of the tale, as is the desolation and hopelessness of life way below the poverty line. Not to mention the clever metamorphosis of fiends into zombies and the very interesting use of fae and otherworldly creatures in the most unusual of modern settings. Once Broaddus does get things moving King Maker gets very good, richly thematic and enticingly original.
But in the end this book on its own is too slow for most urban fantasy fans. Luckily readers won't have to see it end here, and can hope things pick up in book two (King's Justice due March 2011).