“I awoke from my dream. Screaming. Was it a dream? No, though I slept when I saw it; rather, it was a vision.”
P.L. Stuart soars to magnificent new heights with Lord and King, the third volume of his Drowned Kingdom Saga inspired by the legend of Atlantis. The first book of the series, A Drowned Kingdom, introduces us to Prince Othrun and the events leading up to the dramatic submersion of his island kingdom. The second book, The Last of the Atalanteans, follows Othrun as he builds a new kingdom in a foreign land, together with the remaining 1,800 Atalantean survivors who escaped the Drowned Kingdom.
Lord and King finds Othrun as the newly crowned King of Eastrealm, trying to strike a balance between strict Atalantean values and the divergent views of the local populace. For Othrun the mission is divine, sent by his angelic father to spread the religion of his Single God throughout a land of pagans.
As king, Othrun seems well poised to live up to the Atalantean reputation as ruthless conquerors and colonizers. Othrun is obsessed with crafting his legacy, both through present-day political manipulation and by rewriting history to conform to his bigoted views. Othrun is intent on erasing inconvenient truths from his people’s history.
I remain in awe of P.L. Stuart as a writer, especially the way he captures immense emotional and psychological depth with prose that is eminently readable. Stuart also manages to keep up an exhilarating pace throughout Lord and King from the opening prologue through the final page. With each book in the series, Stuart further refines his craft.
My favorite character in Lord and King is Aliaz, Othrun’s wife who is now expecting their first child and heir to the throne. Aliaz is the perfect foil to Othrun: kind, honest, tolerant, and considerate of those coming from different backgrounds. She is also a pragmatist, understanding when compromises need to be made for the benefit of the kingdom.
Despite his significant flaws, Othrun is surprisingly self-reflective. Othrun’s introspective nature is evident early in the novel when he asks Aliaz, “Am I a good king?” and then, “Am I a good man?” Othrun seems genuine in asking these questions, and Aliaz offers her honest answers.
Lord and King is brimming with scenes that provide new perspectives on events from the first two books of the series. Stuart’s use of foreshadowing is brilliant, truly astounding me at around the halfway point of the novel.
I’ve described the Drowned Kingdom Saga as a dark fantasy series in each of my reviews. But could it also be described as grimdark? Over at Grimdark Magazine we use the working definition of grimdark as “a grim story told in a dark world by a morally ambiguous protagonist or anti-hero.” In that sense, the Drowned Kingdom Saga truly is grimdark. Although P.L. Stuart eschews the ultraviolence found in many grimdark novels, there is still plenty of excellent action in this series. But with its primary focus on the evolution of Othrun’s mental state, I’d argue that the Drowned Kingdom Saga can most appropriately be classified as psychological grimdark. It’s the type of story that Fyodor Dostoevsky would write if he were into fantasy.
Othrun also experiences an unexpected amount of character growth in Lord and King, suggesting that the Drowned Kingdom Saga might ultimately be a tale of redemption comparable to Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy. At this point, I could see Othrun going either way.
P.L. Stuart truly knocked this one out of the park, as Lord and King is outstanding in every respect. The Drowned Kingdom Saga is highly recommended for grimdark fans and anyone who enjoys a deeply thought-provoking, character-driven fantasy. The story will continue with A Lion’s Pride, the fourth book which also marks the midpoint of the planned seven-book series.
Review originally published at Grimdark Magazine.