Knights of the Dead God, by James Jakins
Reviewed by Shona Kinsella
This is the first book that I’ve read by James Jakins and I can confidently say that it won’t be the last. Knights of the Dead God is a spin off from his Jack Bloodfist series, but I wasn’t lost despite the fact that I haven’t read the other series. Any information required form that series was given at the appropriate time.
The book begins with Arthur Shield and a half-orc child, MikaiaGoretusk, who have travelled between worlds, ending up in the world that Shield came from, where once he was a Paladin of the god Saban. A world where Orcs are almost universally despised. Not long after their arrival, we get to see what Shield can do when they are attacked by a group of locals, one of whom is an elf. After the fight, they leave town in the company of a young witch named Hazel Midd and all of our main characters are now together.
Arthur has a really interesting narrative arc, growing from someone who has spent his long, violent, life following orderswith little thought or consideration about their morality – or lack thereof – to a man who decides to do whatever he believes to be the right thing, regardless of the personal cost. He is not always a sympathetic character, but he is a well-written and interesting one and someone that I enjoyed reading about.
Mikaia, or Miki, gives the first person POV that tells much of the story. Miki is sweet and intelligent and curious; all the things that make children so fascinating. She trusts Arthur and Hazel to take care of her and to have her best interests at heart and in some ways, that very act of trust makes the adults better people.
Hazel is a witch with a mysterious past – one that we learn a bit more about as the book progresses. She is sad and determined to achieve her aim. Hazel has less growth over the course of the book but that makes her story no less interesting.
The magic system in the book is fascinating. Witches store spells in advance, keeping them in a wand until the magic is required. Arthur receives power from his god, power that disappeared with the death of Saban, power which the other paladins are keen to see restored.
The story is fast-paced and engaging throughout. It feels complete despite it’s short length and benefits from the author’s brief style. There’s not a huge amount of worldbuilding going on, but we are given enough to feel oriented in the story and to follow along. The story is a little formulaic, but it still manages to feel fresh which is a mark of Jakin’s skill.
For a quick, fun read, I would definitely recommend this book – and don’t be put off by the use of the standard stable of fantasy creatures. I think they’ll surprise you.