Kirsten Reviews: Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hullick

, by Kt Clapsadl

Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick
Tales of the Kin #2

It’s been three months since Drothe killed a legend, burned down a portion of the imperial capital, and unexpectedly elevated himself into the ranks of the criminal elite. Now, as the newest Gray Prince in the underworld, he’s learning just how good he used to have it.

With barely the beginnings of an organization to his name, Drothe is already being called out by other Gray Princes. And to make matters worse, when one dies, all signs point to Drothe as wielding the knife. As members of the Kin begin choosing sides – mostly against him – for what looks to be another impending war, Drothe is approached by a man who not only has the solution to Drothe’s most pressing problem, but an offer of redemption. The only problem is the offer isn’t for him.

Now Drothe finds himself on the way to the Despotate of Djan, the empire’s long-standing enemy, with an offer to make and a price on his head. And the grains of sand in the hour glass are running out, fast...

Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hullick continues the story begun in Among Thieves. As the story begins, it’s been several months since the protagonist Drothe killed a legend, burned down a fair amount of the imperial capital, and in doing so, managed to catapult himself upward into the ranks of the criminal elite. Now, as the newest Gray Prince of the underworld, he’s finding that rising to power is not so simple a life as she might have imagined. In killing a Gray Prince, Drothe is no longer Kin, and as a Prince, he has a great deal of additional responsibility, and he isn’t exactly sure how to best go about handling this new role.

Barely established as a Gray Prince, Drothe is already having to deal with challenges from other Princes, and when one of them is found dead, everyone believes that Drothe is the one responsible. The resulting power struggle, which finds the Kin choosing sides does not look to be the kind of situation which will end well for Drothe. At this critical moment, Drothe is approached by one of the Degans, Wolf has engineered a clever piece of blackmail, and who offers him the solution to his problem, and even more tempting, redemption. But, this offer isn’t for Drothe, and he has to journey to the Despotate of Djan, enemy of the empire, to make this offer to Bronze, from Among Thieves, all the while he has a price on his head.

Of course, there is the issue of the way Drothe and Bronze parted in the last book, and needless to say, there are other complications that arise. This includes a group of traveling troubadours and a number of other interesting characters.

Part of what keeps the story moving is the fact that Drothe is not same confident individual from the first book. As a newly-promoted Gray Prince, he is unsure of how to handle himself or these additional duties. Instead of being able to do everything himself, he has to learn how to delegate authority, work with other people, and so rather than planning out his moves, and anticipating what his enemies might do next, Drothe spends the majority of the book reacting to events as they occur. By the end of the story, he has had more than a few setbacks, and not only from people out to get him, but he does have an objective, and at least some idea of how to go about reaching it.

Beyond the plot and character development, the author does a substantial amount of worldbuilding, further explaining things like the Order of the Degans, the system of magic that is part of this series, and other information which readers will find interesting. The setup for the next book is clear by the last few pages, and there is quite a lot of room still to be explored, both for the characters, and the world they inhabit.
(Received a copy from the publisher)

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Other Reviews:
     The Bibliosanctum
     Staffers Book Review
     Open Book Society

Previous Books:
     1. Among Thieves

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