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The Song of the Shattered Sands #1

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai

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Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings -- cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings' laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha'ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings' mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings' power...if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don't find her first. 

592 pages, Hardcover

First published September 1, 2015

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About the author

Bradley P. Beaulieu

63 books1,134 followers
Bradley P. Beaulieu began writing his first fantasy novel in college, but life eventually intervened. As time went on, though, Brad realized that his love of writing and telling tales wasn't going to just slink quietly into the night. The drive to write came back full force in the early 2000s, at which point Brad dedicated himself to the craft, writing and learning under the guidance of writers like Nancy Kress, Joe Haldeman, Tim Powers, Holly Black, and many more.

Brad and his novels have garnered many accolades including two Hotties—the Debut of the Year and Best New Voice—on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, a Gemmell Morningstar Award nomination for The Winds of Khalakovo and more:

* Top Ten Book and Debut of the Year for 2011 on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist for The Winds of Khalakovo
* Best New Voice of 2011 on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
* 2011 Gemmell Morningstar Award Nomination for The Winds of Khalakovo
* Top Ten Debut for The Winds of Khalakovo on Ranting Dragon's Best of 2011
* Top Ten Debut for The Winds of Khalakovo on Mad Hatter's Best of 2011
* Top Five Book for 2012 on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist for The Straits of Galahesh
* 2012 Most Anticipated for The Straits of Galahesh on Staffer's Book Review
* 2012 Most Anticipated for The Straits of Galahesh on The Ranting Dragon
* 2013 Most Anticipated for The Flames of Shadam Khoreh on The Ranting Dragon

Brad continues to work on his next projects, including an Arabian Nights epic fantasy and a Norse-inspired middle grade series. He also runs the highly successful science fiction & fantasy podcast, Speculate, which can be found at speculatesf.com.


* The Winds of Khalakovo
* The Straits of Galahesh
* The Flames of Shadam Khoreh

Short Story Collections
* Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories

* Strata (with Stephen Gaskell)

Contact Information
Website: www.quillings.com
Twitter: @bbeaulieu
Facebook: facebook.com/bradley.p.beaulieu

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Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 63 books1,134 followers
December 28, 2016
Hi everyone! Please Like this review. I'll be using it to post news about the book.

Please like this review. I'll be using it for various updates as the book heads toward release and beyond!

Dec 28th, 2016 - With Blood Upon the Sand has ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies). Find out more at my blog. If you're a reviewer and would like a review copy of the book, please send me your name and the site you review for and I'll do my best to get you a copy. NetGalley should have it up next week, and you can request a copy there as well once it's available.

Oct 19th,2016 - If you're curious to learn a bit more about the series, here's a fun YouTube video that I recorded with Ezekiel Boone (The Hatching) and Mark Stay from Gollancz!

Oct 19th,2016 - This is and update for Book Two, With Blood Upon the Sand. I'll update here a few more times, but if you want to keep up with news on the second book, please go to its Goodreads page and mark it as Want to read (or what have you).

At this point, we're still on schedule for a February release of With Blood Upon the Sand. The near-final book has been turned in and is being copy edited. I expect to have something back in the next month or so, and then I need to turn around edits quickly for the final run-up to production.

We're also nearing the final cover design. The artwork itself was turned in a while ago, and the artist, I think it's safe to share at this point, is Donato Giancola! It's some pretty stunning artwork, and I can't wait to get it out there for you to see. Hopefully soon!

More as I have it!

March 1, 2016 - MAPS! If anyone is interested in maps for Twelve Kings, here's the first of two we'll be putting out: http://quillings.com/fiction/twelve-kings-in-sharakhai/maps-of-the-song-of-the-shattered-sands/

Twelve Kings has hit twenty-four Best of 2015 lists!
Amazon's Best of 2015 in Fantasy and Sci-Fi
B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog Best of 2015
BuzzFeed’s Best Fantasy of 2015
SciFiNow's 20 Books You Should Have Read in 2015
Fantasy Faction's Top 15 Books of 2015
Nerdmuch's Top 23 Fantasy Books in 2015
Speculative Book Review's Top Book of 2015
The Speculative Herald’s Best of 2015
SFFWorld’s Best Fantasy and Horror of 2015
BestFantasyBooks' Top 25 Fantasy Books of 2015
Bookworm Blues Best of 2015
Fantasy Book Critic's Top Reads of 2015
Rob's Blog o' Stuff
Over the Effing Rainbow's Best of 2015
The Passionate Foodie's Best of 2015
Quill to Live Best of 2015
Bibliotropic's Top Ten SFF Books of 2015
Smorgasbord Fantasia's Best of 2015
Bitten by a Radioactive Book's Top Ten of 2015
Book Frivolity's Top Ten Fantasy Books of 2015
Lynn's Books Best The Best of the Best of the Best 2015
Fantasy Book Collector's Top Fantasy Book of 2015 / Male Author
Galleywampus Favorite Books of 2015
The Grimdark Files Top 5 Reads of 2015

A few quick notes:

A lot of folks have asked how to pronounce Çeda's name. It's CHAY-da, like mesa, or Aveda.

A new prequel novel is coming for the Shattered Sands series. OF SAND AND MALICE MADE will be released by DAW Books in September of 2016. It shows Çeda as a young woman a few years before TWELVE KINGS IN SHARAKHAI begins. Here's the description:

Çeda, the heroine of the widely anticipated, just-released novel TWELVE KINGS IN SHARAKHAI, is the youngest pit fighter in the history of the great desert city of Sharakhai. In this prequel, she has already made her name in the arena as the fearsome, undefeated White Wolf; none but her closest friends and allies know her true identity. But this all changes when she crosses the path of Rümayesh, an ehrekh, a sadistic creature forged long ago by the god of chaos. The ehrekh are usually desert dwellers, but this one lurks in the dark corners of Sharakhai, toying with and preying on humans. As Rümayesh works to unmask the White Wolf and claim Çeda for her own, Çeda’s struggle becomes a battle for her very soul. This spellbinding tale is sure to strike a chord with readers of Peter V. Brett, Brent Weeks, and Trudi Canavan—as well as fans of TWELVE KINGS IN SHARAKHAI who are eagerly awaiting book two.

I'm now hard at work on Book 2 of the series, tentatively titled WITH BLOOD UPON THE SAND. The Song of the Shattered Sands is planned as a six-book series. I may also have additional projects, like short stories along the way.

If you want to read more about Çeda, you can pick up a copy of the Blackguards anthology from Ragnarok Publications, which includes my story "Irindai," a tale about Çeda before Twelve Kings in Sharakhai begins.
Profile Image for Petrik.
673 reviews42.7k followers
April 1, 2021
I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo

2.5/5 stars

For me, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai has everything except the most important one: characters to care for.

Believe me, no one is more saddened by this rating than I am. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu has been on my radar since 2017; the cover art of the entire series looked spectacular, and everything I’ve heard about it sounds like this is going to become one of my favorite series. Heck, if you followed my Booktube channel, you might have seen that one of the videos I posted in December stated that I included this series as one of my priority series to start and finish within this year. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen now.

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is the first out of six books in the Song of the Shattered Sands series by Bradley Beaulieu. The story revolves around Ceda, and the narrative juggled the past and present timeframe of her POV chapters. Honestly speaking, this novel started out strongly for me; in the first quarter, I was delighted and convinced that the rest of the novel will be as impressive. Sadly, that just didn’t happen. The more I read the novel, the more I’m bored and disappointed with it. It is such an odd thing to experience, and I am so conflicted because there were indeed some incredible moments within the story. However, their quality was ultimately diminished by the brutally slow pacing and a severe lack of distinct characterizations. The conclusion at the end was too short and anti-climactic.

It was incredibly difficult for me to care about the characters. Ceda, Emre, and practically everyone had no distinctive voice to me; I personally think Beaulieu didn’t spend a lot of focus on characterizations that would’ve made this book more amazing. As I mentioned, there are two timeframes in the narrative, but the flashback chapters were relatively not beneficial to the overall narrative. This is coming from me, a reader who actually loves reading flashback chapters in their fantasy novels. Many authors have the capability to use flashback chapters to deepen the characterizations of their characters and flesh out the world-building; The Gentleman Bastards by Scott Lynch and The Licanius Trilogy by James Islington are great example of this. Unlike these two series I mentioned, the flashback chapters here felt as if they’re fillers; they didn’t add anything to the book except to increase the page count. I found the flashback chapters decrease the quality of the narrative; the plot moved like a snail. Seriously, I finished this 600 pages novel, and it felt like so little has happened.

I am disappointed, but most of all, I am sad that I couldn’t fully enjoy reading this novel. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai was a mixed baggage for me; it has a vivid setting, lore, and immersive world-building, but at the end of the day, my reading experience suffered due to the lack of distinctive characters—I seriously think all the POV characters sounded the same—for me to feel invested in plus the ultra-slow pacing. I might give the sequel a try to see whether things improve or not in the future, but I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon—or ever—with more than 300 hundred books on my TBR pile.

You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping) | Bookshop (Support Local Bookstores!)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!

My Patrons: Alfred, Alya, Annabeth, Ben, Blaise, Devin, Diana, Edward, Ellen, Gary, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Joie, Lufi, Melinda, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Sarah, Seth, Shaad, Summer, Zoe.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 110 books92.6k followers
May 16, 2015
I reserve my 5-star ratings for a VERY few books on the tip-top of my all-time favorite's list, so don't let the lack of a 5th star mislead you. This book was a joy to read and Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is my favorite Bradley P. Beaulieu to date.

Çeda is a wonderful protagonist--beautiful, capable and I enjoyed traveling with her through the sun-scorched streets of Sharakhai while she searches for clues to her past and future.

I highly recommend this book, and predict it will elevate Brad's already successful career.
Profile Image for ❄️BooksofRadiance❄️.
603 reviews731 followers
Want to read
March 21, 2018
✨Desert setting.
✨Sinister immortals.
✨Blade Maidens. Blade maidens!
✨Monstrous creatures.
✨Secrets, revenge and glorious battles.

I think I’ve heard enough.

The desert fantasy I’ve been waiting for has finally landed on my lap.
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
724 reviews1,202 followers
May 20, 2020
[3.5 stars] Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is a book I’ve had high on my priority list ever since that enticing cover came across my radar in 2015. The cover is actually a pretty good indication of what to expect from this book – excellent attention to world-building and a main character determined to shake up the status quo using swordsmanship and stealth. It was a very entertaining read, but it did leave a few elements on the table.

Pacing was by far the biggest miss for me. This book is riddled with flashbacks that, while interesting, effectively killed momentum for the main story. Actual forward plot advancement took forever. It’s only saving grace was that the flashbacks contained a good number of “reveals” that I think were supposed to serve as plot advancing tools (where the story moved forward in concept instead of action), but I think it could’ve done with far fewer (as it was, I occasionally got confused and forgot which timeframe I was reading and had to reorient). Eventually, it all came together, but the lack of momentum made for the type of read I didn’t have qualms setting it aside for other reads.

The characters also lacked a little bit of depth. They had great backstory (as was emphasized practically every other chapter), but never really pulled me in more than surface level. Perhaps this issue was also caused by so many flashbacks taking away time from development. Whatever the case, I’m sitting here really liking the characters but not feeling anything for them.

To that effect, other than the occasional language and sex scenes, both the character profiles and love story came off very YA (okay, maybe a leveled-up YA), but fantasy readers will probably find it a little thin when compared to the likes of Malazan or even Game of Thrones. I actually think Twelve Kings in Sharakhai could be a great recommend for those in that transition between YA and adult Fantasy, as several elements (the setting and fight scenes) reminded me strongly of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series (specifically the prequel, Assassin’s Blade). When I say something “came off YA” I usually mean that in a disparaging way, but in this case I didn’t count it a bad thing.

Overall, this isn’t the strongest I’ve read in the genre, but the world-building and story were enough to keep me engaged when the pacing started to lag. Good drop-in details about a new world always goes a long way with me, so I definitely came away from this happy to have read it.

Series status: I liked it, but if it wasn’t for the scheduled buddy read for the sequel I signed up for, I wouldn’t be in a huge hurry to continue. Especially since discovering that it’s planned for a six book series instead of what I thought completed as a trilogy. Even so, I’m hopeful for the best in the next one.

Recommendations: I’d hand this to fantasy readers in the mood for something light and creative, or to YA fantasy fans who want a good translation series from Throne of Glass to adult fantasy. The world building was easily the biggest selling point for me, so if you like to immerse in new places, give it a try. :)

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.NikiHawkes.com

Other books you might like:
The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass, #0.1-0.5) by Sarah J. Maas Court of Fives (Court of Fives, #1) by Kate Elliott Starless by Jacqueline Carey Heart of the Mirage (Mirage Makers, #1) by Glenda Larke The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,028 reviews2,605 followers
August 31, 2015
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.com/2015/08/31/b...

I love Epic Fantasy for many reasons, not least of which is the fact every book is a portal to a whole new world. But when you read as much as this genre as I do, you sure get to visit a lot of them. That is why, when every once in a while I come across a setting that truly stands out, I sit up and take note. And Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Twelve Kings in Sharakhai made me do just that.

Right from the start I was captivated by the magnificent desert city of Sharakhai, where this novel takes place. Surrounded by a literal ocean of dust and sand, this political and cultural trade center attracts all manner of visitors. From merchants to dignitaries, they sail across the dunes in great sand-ships to treat with the city’s kings, twelve immortal men who have held power in Sharakhai since time immemorial. However, not all people are happy with their rule, and many remember the injustices wrought upon them by the kings and their ruthless agents.

The novel’s protagonist Çeda is one such individual. When she was eight years old, her mother was a rebel captured and executed by the kings, then hung from Sharakhai’s walls as a warning and example to other detractors. Çeda has sworn vengeance ever since. Now more than a decade has passed, and Çeda is still as determined as ever to take down the twelve kings, with the help of a book of cryptic writings left to her by her mother. Unlocking the book’s puzzles will not be easy though, and there are many questions about her own heritage that must be solved before Çeda can bring the fight to her enemies.

So many thoughts filled my mind when I finished this book, I’m not even sure where to begin. Beaulieu weaves a complex tale of intrigue, employing devices like flashbacks and bringing in other characters points-of-view to great effect. In many ways, Çeda’s story plays out almost like a mystery plot, following her on a journey to uncover clues about the twelve kings’ weaknesses while also revealing details about her own past and the secrets her mother kept from her. Flashback chapters are generally tricky to pull off, but I was impressed with the way they were done here, inserted at precisely the best moments to emphasize important events in the characters’ lives.

Çeda is also a wonderful main character, one of the best female protagonists I have encountered in years. We open the novel with a scene from the fighting pits, where she is a competitor in the tourney. Right after a phenomenal combat sequence which ends with Çeda serving her opponent his ass on a platter, she then goes on to engage in an intensely passionate tryst with the fighting pit’s owner. If all this was part of Beaulieu’s attempt to capture the reader’s attention right off the bat, well, it certainly worked on me! More importantly though, I got the sense that Çeda is her own woman. She does what she wants but she’s also smart about it, and she is committed to her goals and utterly loyal to those she cares about.

The story also introduces several more major characters, first of which is Emre – Çeda’s childhood friend, partner in crime, and brother of her heart. As Çeda’s mission takes her down one path, Emre’s involvement with the underground resistance takes him down another, leading the two friends to drift apart. But what I love about this story is that nothing about it is black and white, and there’s much more to it than simply good versus evil. The twelve kings may be ruthless and cruel, but the rebels – a group calling themselves the Moonless Host – are far from innocent themselves, employing methods that are just as bloody and destructive. The relationship dynamics between Emre and Çeda become a focal point when the two of them end up on opposite sides, fighting for the same cause while driven by different forces. Throw in a third faction, Ramahd and Meryam of the Qaimiri delegation, and it gets even more difficult to tell friend from foe. As with the best and most realistic stories of fluid loyalties and political intrigue, there is absolutely nothing clear-cut about the situation and the plot will keep you wondering who’s an enemy and who’s an ally every step of the way.

While Beaulieu never stops challenging his characters, the world building in this novel is where his skills really shine. The many distinct cultures that feature in the pages of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai provided a diverse setting, which is further fleshed out by its rich history, religions, and various magic systems. The many sights and sounds of the city are brought to life by the stunningly detailed descriptions of important locales, from the decadent halls of the Tauriyat to the blooming fields of adichara plants in the surrounding desert. The world-building also made up for the slower pacing of the first half of the novel, because there were just so many wonderful things to take in.

All told, the payoff was definitely worth it. A promising start to a new series, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai offers readers a glimpse into Bradley P. Beaulieu’s talent for storytelling as well as his emerging role as a master world-builder. With its many different peoples and cultures, Sharakhai’s desert setting was utterly spellbinding. I also found myself enthralled by the plot’s combination of adventure and intrigue, along with the richness and depth of the characters. Books like this keep the epic fantasy genre fresh and diversified, and I am very excited to see what the future holds for The Song of the Shattered Sands series.
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews824 followers
November 14, 2018
“This I vow, O Kings.” She did not whisper; she spoke plainly and clearly, as if the Kings were standing there before her. “I am coming for you. I am coming for you one and all.”

You know me, I am the weird one. I love books nobody likes and hate books everybody loves. And this one is not an exception to this rule.

The first thing is that I must have a soft spot for desert cities settings (as you'd know if you remember my love for the City of Bones). Enter Sharakhai, Shangazi Desert ’s amber jewel, an oasis that bloomed on the sea of sands. If the image of a desert brings to your mind caravans of camels and wading through the dunes, forget it. Here, people sail the desert (how incredibly fantastic is that?!). Also, since Dune, if not before, there has been a certain stereotypical way of presenting this kind of milieu roughly mimicking what we can generally call an Arabic/Islamic culture. You will not find this in the Twelve Kings. What Mr Beaulieu does here is truly original. I grant you there are some Arabic sounding names, and elements of food or garments, but that is about it. The theological, legal, societal and cultural framework is anything but. The worldbuilding is sumptuous, detailed and so imaginative; I can see that it might be too much for some readers, but I relished meticulous worldbuilding and soaked up all the details like a sponge.

Now, in the very heart of Sharakhai, stand the twelve palaces of Tauriyat where the twelve kings, one for each of the twelve desert tribes, live and rule the city through their harsh laws of Kannan enforced by one hundred and forty-four (do your maths!) black-clad Blade Maidens with their deadly ebon blades. This, and their special abilities, each unique for given king. For these kings are ancient and powerful. And when I write ancient, do not conjure an image of a white-haired, bearded grandfather on a throne. Instead imagine someone who looks about forty, and in reality is over four hundred years old wielding magic that borders on the divine.

On the other side, there is one woman. Çedaminh Ahyanesh’ala, daughter of Ayanesh Ishaq’ava and unknown father but the question of whose child she truly is is neither easy nor straightforward.

When we meet her, all we know is that she is a relatively skilled fighter, leads a double life but prefers it to be on the quiet ends of shady businesses and keeps to herself. We also know that her mother, for reasons unknown hated the kings with the vehemence that led her to be hanged for a failed assassination attempt when Çeda was still a small and relatively innocent girl. A before and after moment for her determining the course of her life.

Oh, right, you want to say, so it is a revenge kind of book. Yes and no. In theory, there are two tropes mixed in here: the trope of vengeance and the trope of finding the truth. The truth, however, is only means to bringing justice and justice serves as an excuse to have the righteous retribution. It is also a book about memory and how things are remembered (not). This motif is exercised in a masterful way that reminded me of the City of Stairs.

Mind you, history is more than a mere sum of past events. Since there usually is a number of allowed, legitimate, ‘objective’ and more or less appropriate ways to remember, normally the historical narrative arises organically and simultaneously in different variants. These narratives by defining, redefining and maintaining collective memories, constitute a backbone of a salient group self-identity appropriated for political purposes. The relevance of a managed historical memory to power is quite straightforward. Already in his prophetic 1984 George Orwell showed that he who shapes memories of the past holds real power over both present and future. Indeed, memory has become one of the most feasible means of exercising political power in the world. The control over memories enables proper control over the sphere of public opinion, not only within one community, but also in the international sphere. Therefore, from the political point of view, it is not without significance what people, on a mass scale, remember and in what way.

Twelve Kings tells a story of manufactured and maintained memories. A book about lies, about history formed of carefully cultiva ated falseness, grand tapestry of political, and cultural schemes utterly naked of the truth and integrity. I have read in other reviews that it is not plausible to do this but just think how easy it is to erase the truth and then write it anew in a world where illiteracy is high and only few can write and read, in a strictly regulated hierarchical society without the liberties, the benefit of free speech or the social media effect? The answer is: Frighteningly easy. (On the side note: This novel also made me reflect on our own fake news civilisation of information wars.)

In terms of design, you will find three different POVs in the novel: Çeda’s, own, her flatmate’s/one-time lover’s/frined’s/soulmate’s/it’s complicated called Emre, and Ramahd shan Amansir’s, a lord from Qaimir sworn to avenge the murder of his wife and daughter. Of these, Çeda’s chapters are the more frequent but the other two points of that triangle are vital to the story in their own way, particularly that none of these narrators share the same goals. I write ‘triangle’ not because there is a standard romantic subplot (there kind of is but in a very delicate way, Emre is your boy next door while Ramahd is a Prince Darkly Charming), but because you will find tensions between these protagonists.

Additionally, Çeda’s narrative swings between the now and the then, which is a tool quite frequently employed by many writers, and most famously by Mark Lawrence. It tends to irritate me if it is done purely for the sake of bowing to certain flash trends in fantasy-writing that tend to come and go. Or if it is a crude way to deliver some crucial plot-related information buried in the past. In this book, I didn’t mind the retrospections so much because they were not meant to reveal but rather to provide background and context. The adult Çeda is no more smart or knowing than the young Çeda but some of the seemingly unimportant events, meetings or figures from her past help us to understand why she is the way she is and explain the idiosyncrasies of her behaviour.

I also like the way characters are built and developed in this novel. When we meet Çeda, she has done virtually nothing to fulfil her promise to avenge her mother’s death. The way her character is built and then guided through the maze of plot twists shows her lost and bewildered, without super prowess in any area, not always victorious, and yet not defined by her flaws or the flaw that would serve as a springboard for some spectacular character breakthrough. The author is subtle and patient in this regard. Another thing that makes it easy to bond with Çeda is that she is terribly lonely. Those that want to be a part of her life would be either liabilities or potential distractions. Those she would like to have by her side, for different reasons cannot walk her path. And as she grows from a girl entirely unprepared for unravelling mysteries to a woman orchestrating conspiracies, she perseveres not because she has some special abilities but because she is driven. Not even to the point of obsession, like her mother, but strongly enough not to give up half-way through.

And she faces a formidable enemy, you have to admit. One person against twelve individuals backed by the whole system of corrupt power, the more interesting because the Kings are not your typical sinister moustache twirling kind of antagonist. It is the system that is oppressive not the individual selves per se; it is the source of King’s power that is revolting, their rationale for grasping it might be even laudable. How do you defeat an opponent like this? Naturally, from within. But the Kings know more than Çeda imagines. “Carefully, Çeda. Step very carefully indeed.”

Granted, if you like non-stop action, this book is not for you. But if you can appreciate the slowly rising tension, the incrementally building pressure, the picture that starts simple enough but with each sentence and with each chapter gains depths of a panoply of shadows among the desert dunes, like me, you will not be able to stop reading. There are the awesome Blade Maidens, a mix between a sisterhood os assassins and a religious sect. The Moonless Host of revolutionaries coming from all the twelve tribes that once ruled the Shangazi Desert. The incredible blooming fields of adichara, a twisted and wickedly thorned plant that, blooms only at night. The frightening asirim, beings that hunt for souls (and bodies) during the night of Beht Zha’ir that comes about every six weeks when the twin moons are full (that is to say, quite frequently, I’d rather not pay my taxes in flesh and bone but hey, who cannot say that living in London or New York does not present health and safety hazards) but for this price, defending the city against its many foes. Pit fights, blood magic, poems and visions, and sand skateboarding (!), and many other incredible things every fantasy-lover will just adore.

This is an opening to rather long series and at the same time a lifetime wrapped into a handful of weeks. Things are both discovered and lost, protagonists morph and solidify only to be shattered, the intrigue is sketched in a cunning way so that you are left being unsure why is the evilest of them all and who to ally yourself with.

I will surely continue this stupendous series whose only shortcoming stems from the fact that it will have been finished only in 2021 (the pain…).

Note on the rating: rounded up to 5 stars because I feel the book is underrated.


Also in the series:

2. With Blood Upon the Sand ★★★★☆
3. A Veil of Spears RTC
4. Beneath the Twisted Trees RTC
5. When Jackals Storm the Walls RTC
6. A Desert Torn Asunder RTC
Profile Image for Stefan.
166 reviews224 followers
November 21, 2017
“The best stories thrived when they contained a kernel of truth.
One just needed to know how to prune the falsities and deceits to find the truth lying at their shared center.”

Twelve Kings in Sharakai is probably the best epic fantasy book this month you probably won't be reading.

Actually, I'm not even sure this book even belongs to that genre.
There's no dragons in it. No dwarfs and no elves.
There's no magic and mages, nor epic quests. There's no Tolkien's big bad Sauron, and the fate of the world doesn't hang by a thread.
No one waits for that "chosen one" in a final decisive battle - in manners of Robert Jordan's Tarmon Gaidon - to be saved by him.
Gods, even though existing in this world, are exactly there were we are used to find them - absent.

Also, in persistent flourishing of grim-dark as (sub)genre of epic fantasy, in recent years we started kinda guarding ourselves - especially while reading Martin's, Erikson's or Abercrombie's books, or those alike - in a way that we almost instantaneously assume how every character we meet on the streets, castles or slums of their books, are also potential candidates to commit some form of shameless act of violence or evil.

So, it's really refreshing, at least for me, when an author refrains himself from "tricking your instinct", that impression you gain while reading about characters in his book - and all of that which was done for the sake of shock value (Right, Sanderson?).
When a character, character you started caring about, naturally evolves in domain of that which was expected from him, considering the plot he follows in the story, and how author himself presented that character to us.
You know, without needless, uncharacteristically and unfathomable stupidity, right around there, by the end of the second book, closely to its 2000th page of the series (Right, Sanderson?).

Çedamin 'Çeda' Ayanes'ala


our protagonist in this book, is exactly that type of character.
A rudimentary type of person of even more basic principles: "Survive."
"Oh and, if you can - if such occasion presents itself - avenge death of your mother."
"But, first survive the day."

Author succeeded in his effort to present us (seemingly) simplicity of someones eagerness for revenge complexly enough, without the need to intertwine his story with abundance of sub-plots.
He succeeded in building someones personal story and made it more than interesting enough for us to follow.
Revenge. And how hard is to keep your given word - to yourself, primarily.
Someone would argue how revenge as a plot is not enough. I disagree. And this book is an example why.

Of course, there's handful of really interesting characters you may find in this book, written equally as good as our main hero, but characters that don't occupy nearly as much space in the book as her, which by itself speaks of authors capability to put his characters in right place, right time, and while coexisting with each other in right amount will become - if not likable - at least clear and understandable.
Even villains. Especially villains.
Sometimes we simply don't need 700 pages of sub-plots in order to understand side character ( Right, Sanderson? ).

City resembling to Aladdin's Agrabah, desert, ships that sail on dunes, discovering mysteries in ancient libraries, ancient history and mythology...
I forgot how this is more than enough.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,460 reviews9,611 followers
August 19, 2019
Just friggin damn it!!

I thought I would love this damn book so I bought all the pretty damn editions from damn Book Depository! I’m not doing that damn crap any damn more!! I liked the damn beginning and then in went into some other damn past crap!! Plus, I’m in a damn mood. I have a damn CT scan tomorrow and then go to oncologist to talk about results and I swear, I can’t handle much more damn shit. But they have to find out what the pain is and I have a damn MRI at the end of the month for radiation damage. Soooooooooo........ I’m in no mood for a damn book dragging me down! I’m glad other people liked it though. Damn it!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Terence.
1,113 reviews345 followers
January 5, 2016
In the city of Sharakhai the people hope to see the Immortal Kings overthrown. Çeda, a young woman with a sad past, fights in the pits to make a living. Çeda as much as anyone prays for the downfall of the Kings and on one holy night she may have just received the hint she needs to overthrow them.

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai from the outside seemed so appealing. It has an interesting cover and the premise was promising. The first chapter of Çeda fighting in the pits as The White Wolf enveloped me with excitement, but unfortunately the story meandered past mediocrity to the point of drudgery from there.

In many ways this book is centered around mystery, but for me it missed one crucial aspect necessary to make a good mystery...I need to care. I was unconcerned with the Kings secrets of immortality and Çeda's secret was painfully obvious. Page after page of mystery I wasn't concerned with and tangents that were no more interesting left me drained whenever I tried to read the book.

In the end Twelve Kings in Sharakhai just wasn't a story for me.

1 out of 5 stars

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Karina Webster.
327 reviews50 followers
January 22, 2018
Twelve Kings by Bradley P Beaulieu is the first book in a six book epic fantasyseries set in the great city of Sharakai, deep in the heart of an oppressive desert landscape. This is the kind of fantasy I’ve been searching for. A world of sand dunes, fighting pits & kings; tribes, waking gods & monsters. Sex, lies, betrayals: determination, ruthlessness, skill all together makes Twelve Kings one of my favourite reads.

It is wonderful. and I’ll tell you why.

Now, I’m the first to admit that I enjoy the traditional medieval Europe sword & sorcery fantasy setting. It’s comfortable, familiar. Yet this new (to me!) desert setting really fascinated me. Beaulieu’s descriptions of clothing, food and tradition were luscious, sumptuous and kind of breathtaking. The detail was thoroughly immersive without having large paragraphs of information dumping. I felt like I was wandering the very streets the characters tread, I could feel the hot dry air prickle my neck. The whole experience was completely addictive. And that’s before we begin to unravel the mysteries hinted at from the first page.

We mainly follow Ceda, a fantastic pit fighter who battles under the guise of the White Wolf to earn money while she tries to fulfil her vow to kill the Twelve Kings of Sharakai. I really enjoyed the writing style, I found it very engaging and it masterfully built tension as the story progressed and the stakes got higher. The varied sentence structures were particularly good at this in the fight scenes. Unusually for me, I didn’t hate reading the flashback chapters. Normally I dislike the inclusion of flashbacks or ‘5 years earlier…‘ chapters as I find that they halt the pace of the ‘present day’ narrative but surprisingly this was not the case in Twelve Kings. I found that they were not only necessary to the plot but remained interesting. A new experience for me!

This is quite a character driven fantasy story which I love (hello, Robin Hobb) and the characters here are diverse and complex.Wholly worth my time and patience. Despite some of them coming from similar backgrounds they all had their own stories that shaped their behaviours and beliefs in a realistic way. I liked that we found out about certain events as the story went on rather as suddenly some behaviours made much more sense and it was fun to connect the dots. I particularly enjoyed reading events unfurl and develop from the different ‘camps’ – the Kings, the Moonless Host, Ceda and Ramahd. I won’t explain the motivations and characteristics of these different point of views in order to avoid spoilers, but I will say that I am especially interested to watch Ramahd’s storyline progress.

This brings me to my only niggle. Around the middle of the book there was a big revelation for Ceda. This comes after a really interesting chapter with Ramahd where we learn his real motives behind being in Sharakai. The pace was swimming along nicely and I was so ready to see these narratives intertwine at the same pace. Yet, all of a sudden we go to Ceda studying old texts for a few chapters and there are a few time jumps while a couple of weeks pass by. We don’t see/hear from him again for a while and I missed him. I was so intrigued by his story and couldn’t wait to see him kick off his mission in earnest. I felt it was a little jarring to introduce such a juicy storyline at an integral moment and then put it on a back-burner – & then not expand on Ceda’s ‘she knew what she needed to do’ revelation. Not for a while at least. I felt this let the pace drop, which in the middle of a 580 page book isn’t great. However, it soon picked up again and I was invested enough in all of the characters to still turn the pages avidly.

I must admit I am also slightly concerned about Emre. I really like him as a character but I feel like he blatantly fits a common trope. The one of the ‘Good Guy’ sucked into controversial/bad actions due to a traumatic past event and insecure feelings etc… I fear I can predict how his story will play out which is a bit disappointing in the first of a six book series. However, I must keep some faith in Beaulieu’s writing, he may totally surprise me and twist the trope on its head. I would like that. Although if I had to choose between male leads, I’d pick Ramahd hands down. He is more interesting and more mature. Emre isn’t juvenile as such, I just feel that despite all he has gone through he still has a lot of growing up to do. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s done really well. It’s obvious that Beaulieu wants Emre to be like that, I just hope he doesn’t continue to fit that trope so well as the series progresses.

But wait, there’s more good stuff. I like the murky depths of all these characters. None of them are wholly good, they’ve all done terrible things and it’s just seen as part of their life. There is no ‘golden’ character that is a shining beacon of goodness which I liked. In some parts it’s difficult to know whose side you want to be on, which speaks volumes for Beaulieu’s excellent characterisations. I like how dark and twisty the Kings are, I can’t wait to discover more about some of them, learn what makes them tick. Something is afoot and I need to know what it is. Another favourite fantasy element of mine is having real gods. Most fantasy worlds have deities whose names the characters use to curse with, or that embody personality traits in them, but I LOVE it when they are actually real and can walk amongst them. We have that here and oooh I am so ready for more. Only two were glimpsed in this first book, a little taster of what’s to come I hope! And of course, there is magic. It hasn’t been explored too much, naturally something is keeping the Kings alive for hundreds of years and there’s something in Saliah’s chiming tree but other than that we’ve only really seen a show of blood magic. Which is interesting, but I’m looking forward to reading more.

Anyway, what are you waiting for? Go read this book!
Profile Image for Kevin Xu.
273 reviews96 followers
March 18, 2016
One of the best book I have read in years. Even though this book has flashbacks, which I don't like, I felt like it really adds on to the story since basically the whole book is trying to figure out/uncover the main character's past history.

P. S. I wish more people would read the book.
Profile Image for Lee.
351 reviews192 followers
February 3, 2017
I am really not sure if I want to carry on with this series. Definitely split 50/50 on it. A pretty solid three stars, mainly because of the world building. To be honest, I really didn't gel with the characters and at times the writing style annoyed bored me. I felt it was a little too long and that there really wasn't enough plot growth for such a large book. At 25% shorter, the pacing would have felt better.
The premise behind the story, trying to bring down the ruling 12 kings is good and the way it can be done works well and the author does spend a fair bit of time developing the main characters personalities, but I have to say that I just felt like I was ambling along with it. Everything kind of went along and we finally came to the end, which certainly picked up the action, but it was a LONG road to get there.
I will probably wait until I read some other friends reviews on whether the second book is much better than the first, otherwise this will most likely a series that gets put on the indefinite to read at some time in my life list.
Profile Image for Scott  Hitchcock.
779 reviews224 followers
October 15, 2017

I was on a skydiving team for a number of years. One of my teammates described our performance as a strobe light. Moments of blinding brilliance followed by utter darkness. That pretty much describes this book for me perfectly. One of my own favorite axioms is that a person's greatest strength is also their greatest weakness. As an example a person who is very detail orientated can often take it to such an extreme they become pedantic and inflexible to the point where they are ineffective and alienate others with their inability to see the bigger picture.

Beaulieu's writing is like this. His descriptions are very elegant and build a very vivid world. When the pacing is right the experience is very gratifying. When however he starts describing the same pebbles again and again the pacing suffers and you want to scream OH MY GOD GET ON WITH IT!!!!!!

If you're a fan of The Lions of Al-Rassan and Guy Gavriel Kay I think this is the book and series for you. The writing style, setting, characters and to a lesser degree the plot remind me of each other. I found the same praise and criticism of both works. Where Lions revolved around a diverse group of characters 12 Kings was centralized around one central figure.

I'll continue with the series and hope BPB has better pacing in the coming books.
Profile Image for Mili.
386 reviews33 followers
January 21, 2022
What a strong start to a series, 5🌟🙌🏻. What really jumps out for me is the storytelling and atmosphere! It is richh, this is my first middle east influenced fantasy and the details surrounding it were amazing. From the imaginative sounds that filled my ears to the wide range in clothing and its colors in contrast to the the desert land. It reads fast and immersive with awesome action scenes, stealthy lurking and pitfights.
Which brings me to Çeda, the MC, now she is passionate and strong. We get to know her as a pitfighter named the White Wolf. She has one focussed goal, avenging her mom and killing the Twelve Kings. The whole plot weaves itself around this. We get to know Çeda when she was young and in the now, how she grows and stays determined to kill the Kings. She grows up with her buddy Emre who is set on helping her.
Then there are the Twelve Kings, immortal after a pact with the gods to safe Sharakhai. A blood price. They rule Sharakhai and are protected by the Blade Maidens. There is a dark and twisted side to the Kings. That made me so curious and want to keep reading. Also every 6weeks the asirim rise, creatures that roam the city looking for sacrifices.
Again it is a comfortable fast read that keeps giving you clues that add to the mystery and slowly gives answers. Interweaving dark magics, rich culture and twisted secrets.
Highly recommended! On to the next 🙌🏻
Profile Image for Marielle.
264 reviews39 followers
April 12, 2017
I finished this book a month ago and I forgot to leave my thoughts besides a rating. It is quickly becoming hazy so without further ado I'd like you to know I truly enjoyed this book!
I love book with strong female lead characters and even better if they know how to kick ass! I connected to Ceda quickly and love how she can fight!
So we have a strong woman, an intruiging story, an amazing desert city, and secrets.... together they make a fantastic book!
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 23 books4,070 followers
July 20, 2017
(Goodreads 4.5 stars!)
Wow. Wow. Wow. I think Bradley Beaulieu managed to transcend stereotypical epic fantasy and bring us something totally new. New world building, new culture, new characters, weapons--everything!
(It just so happens that this morning on Twitter, Bradley shared his Pinterest Board he used as inspiration behind all of the above so it was really cool to see the visuals he had in his mind as he crafted this story)
It was so nice to finally read fantasy that didn't share roots in feudal England, ya know? Medieval Kings and Queens and all of that.
No! We get Sand Ships! And a decadent city! And a desert backdrop!
Not to mention our characters. I fell in love with Çedamihn Ahyanesh'ala, or Ceda and her friend, Emre (we *love* Emre--or I did at least, a childhood friend in the Friendzone, who you secretly hope gets to be more)
And I have to say, I loved the first chapter because cage fighting and sex right off the bat! I knew I was in for the long haul after Chapter One hooked me and reeled me in.
But what would epic fantasy be without an epic story? A multifaceted tale of conflict: class struggles and ancient traditions coming to a head and forcing our protagonist right in the middle of it with some family mysteries to solve.
The pacing was perfect. My only beef was maybe trying to keep the cast of characters straight as I struggled to pronounce everyone that was introduced--so I didn't have solid footing by being able to memorize straightforward names, if that makes sense.
This book is heavy too! Very thick but you know, I couldn't think of anywhere where Bradley could have trimmed some fat, the story truly is that intricate. So if you have the time and the desire to invest in a beautiful, masterfully spun fantasy with lots of fighting, sex, mystery and intrigue-then this series is for you and book one kicks it off with a great start!

Profile Image for Elena Rodríguez.
581 reviews262 followers
April 21, 2022
"En dessous de l’arbre tordu
Jusqu’à la mort par son engeance portée,
Par les lames de Nalamae,
Et par la crainte divine,
Le sang du sang gagnera les sombres terres".

(Debajo del árbol torcido //Hasta la muerte por su prole llevada// Por las lágrimas de Nalamae// y por el temor divino// la sangre de la sangre ganará las tierras oscuras).

En realidad, la nota objetiva debería ser de cuatro estrellas. Sin embargo, me ha encantado tanto que se merece una quinta estrella.

« La verité est un mirage qui change au gré des vents du désert ».
( La verdad es un espejismo que cambia conforme los vientos del desierto).

Esta novela ha sido un gran descubrimiento. La encontré justo por casualidad por una booktuber estadounidense que sigo, me leí por encima la sinopsis y me dije ¿por qué no?, así practico mi francés que me hace bastante falta. 700 páginas después puedo confirmar que han merecido muchísimo la pena.

Como acabo de mencionar, esta novela me la he leído en francés. Desgraciadamente no se encuentra en español. El nivel lingüístico lo enmarcaría sin lugar a dudas en un B2. Asimismo, a esto tenemos que sumarle vocabulario especifico de la novela. Sin embargo, una vez te acostumbras, todo va viento en popa. Comentar también que existen una serie de relatos, pero no están traducidos tampoco. Puedo afirmar que la novela cuesta un poco al principio (si no estás acostumbrado a leer en inglés, pero con un poco de esfuerzo se consigue).

« -Nous ne pouvons pas pardonner des affronts tels que ceux que vous commentez depuis des années. Mais vous découvriez peut-être que le malheur ouvre la porte vers nouveaux chemins »
(No podemos perdonar tales afrentas como las que venís comentando desde hace años. Pero quizá descubriréis que la desgracia abre la puerta hacia nuevos caminos).

En cuanto al argumento no quiero comentar nada porque sería destripar la historia. Lo que si me gustaría recalcar es que la historia se desarrolla de manera un poco pausada, pero para mi eso es algo bueno porque el autor se toma su tiempo para mostrarnos el mundo, presentarnos sus personajes, así como presentarnos los futuros problemas a los que se van a tener que enfrentar nuestros protagonistas.

« Est-ce que tu vas continuer à ignorer la tempête que tu aperçois à l’horizon ? Est-ce que tu vas rester les bras croisés pendant que le sable hurle au-dessous de Sharakhaï ? »
(¿Es que vas a continuar ignorando la tormenta que se percibe en el horizonte? ¿Es que te vas a quedar de brazos cruzados mientras la espada aúlla por encima de Sharakhaï?)

¿Los personajes? Están muy bien desarrollados, al menos desde mi punto de vista y son grises, es decir que no entran dentro de la categoría de buenos ni malos. Por otro lado, creo que le he cogido mas cariño a algunos secundarios que a la propia protagonista, sin embargo, eso es algo que siempre me suele ocurrir en casi todos los libros. Además, mención especial a los personajes femeninos de la novela, están muy bien creados, chapeau, Monsieur.

Ahora sí, los puntos magistrales de esta novela son para mí wordbuilding y la mitología-religión. Tampoco quiero comentarlas mucho por miedo a destripar algo, pero si tuviera que compararla con otro libro diría que se me asemejo bastante a Elantris de Brandon Sanderson y como me comentó un compañero por Goodreads a las Mil y una noches. Por cierto, hay barcos que surcan las arenas. Lo siento, eso es algo que me cautivó de las primeras páginas, no sé a ustedes.

« Certaines choses doivent rester cachées, aux yeux des hommes comme à ceux des dieux »
(Algunas cosas deben quedar escondidas, tanto los ojos de los hombres como del de los dioses).

Si tengo que ponerle alguna pega a este libro es el final porque no deja de ser un libro introductorio, sin embargo, como he recalcado antes esta novela me ha gustado mucho y me da mucha rabia que no haya sido traducida al español.

« Les dieux nous guident sur de bien étranges chemins ».
(Los dioses nos guían por caminos muy extraños).
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
October 12, 2015
Four hundred years ago, during the night of B'eht Ihman, twelve leaders, each the representative of their tribe, were established as the rulers of the city of Sharakhai. Since then, they have led the city - and demanded harsh sacrifices.

Now, we meet Çeda. Orphaned due to the law of the Kings, under which her mother was executed, she has vowed revenge. Secretly, Çeda has become a pit fighter of some renown, but how will even her swordsmistress skills allow her to defeat a dozen men who may have supernatural skills, and moreover, who are protected by an elite ninja force - the Blade Maidens?

Çeda's not the only one in Sharakhai who hates the Kings - there's also a revolutionary group plotting against them. Although she has no interest in being drawn into others' schemes, fate may not take her desires into consideration. Why would it have been that a mystic's vision showed the rebellious Çeda being given the ebon sword of a Blade Maiden, when she wishes to take down their whole system? This, and other mysteries must be revealed if her quest is to have any hope of fulfillment.

The setting here is both classic fantasy, and well-crafted. The flavor is Turkish, but only Turk-ish. This is a Middle East with all the sexism excised. When discussing gladiatorial fighting, the egalitarian attitude can require a bit of disbelief-suspension, but in other situations, it's quite refreshing. The city of Sharakhai is nicely cosmopolitan, as well.

Overall, I enjoyed the book quite a lot. There were some moments where I felt that the frequent flashbacks to Çeda's youth disrupted the forward flow of the plot, and there were a few chapters in the middle where it dragged a bit. Of course, toward the end, there's also that sinking realization that 'this all is not going to get tied up in the remaining pages.' It seems that this is planned to be merely the first installment in an epic series. (And quite a long series it might be, too, if the sequels )

In a few ways, this book reminded me of Alex Marshall's 'A Crown For Cold Silver.' If you liked that one, I'd venture to guess you'd enjoy this as well.
Profile Image for seak.
429 reviews473 followers
June 19, 2016
Stunning, immersive world..................check
Deep, rich history..........................check
Epic scale................................check
Compelling plot...................................check
Exciting ending.................................check

So why only 3 stars if this books scores so well on so many levels? Well, it comes down to the characters. I really didn't feel much for them. Ceda starts out really cool and compelling. She's the mysterious "White Wolf" who beats the crap out of an abuser in the fighting pit. How much cooler can you get?

But then as the story moves on, she pretty much gets her butt handed to her by just about every single person. She's not clever and doesn't say clever things, and she's, frankly, annoying after a while.

Emre is the other main character and he's equally as bland. He's got a great history and great reasons to be a great character, he grew up on the street, helped save Ceda from the street and had it rough. But there's not much to him. He seems to have trained Ceda in being boring and that's it.

Now, the ending to this book is great, but had I not listened to this on audiobook I don't know if I ever would have gotten this far.

And speaking of the audio, the narrator, Sarah Coomes, did do an excellent job. Her accents were, for the most part, on point although she has a tendency to make all older men sound just about the same, not to mention older women, especially seers or spiritual types. They sounded just about the same.

On the whole, I was really impressed with this book ... until I started getting bored and the more I started to get bored the more I realized it was because of the main characters, I just didn't care if they achieved their goals or not and only slightly cared whether they lived to do it or not.

3 out of 5 Stars (recommended with reservations)
Profile Image for Mpauli.
157 reviews458 followers
December 31, 2015
This was a realy great book that kept me on my toes with exactly the right amount of sense of wonder and plot revelations.
The desert city Sharakhai is brought to life amzingly and it is a lot of fun to run through the streets with main protagonis Ceda, who is not only a a small time message runner, but also a pit fighter in disguise. But all this is nothing compared to her thirst for revenge upon the twelve kings, the mystical rulers of the great city.
Bradley P. Beaulieu finds a good mix of familiar elements for a desert fantasy setting and some very unique world-building blocks. On every corner there is something new to discover, sometimes important, sometimes just for flavor.
The main character Ceda is very interesting and next to her plot, her relationships and her shift in relationships with other characters drive the book forward.
Next to her, we get 3 minor perspectives. One is Emre, Ceda's best friend since childhood. There's is a relationship of many layers, which make for an interesting and believeable read.
The next point of view belongs to Ramahd, a mysterious man from outside of Sharakhai with a revenge story of his own.
Last but not least we're getting glimpses of Ishan, one of the twelve kings.
Overall I was very impressed with the first book in this new series by Beaulieu and I was really immersed in the world of Sharakhai. I'm really looking forward to see how that series is going to progress.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,936 followers
October 17, 2015
This is a book I'd not heard a huge amount about before picking it up but I decided to do so as i'm going to an event with the author next week and I really wanted to try out something by him before I did so. I have to say that I'm very happy I did pick this up because I ended up really, really enjoying it and it's a thoroughly good book with some dynamic characters and relationships, a fairly original setting, some cool magic, and a rip-roaring plot. Basically it's everything I love in a good book, and it's a great load of fun to read in a short space of time (despite its length) because it is so action-packed. I actually read the majority of it today during the Dewey's 24-hour readathon, and it was a perfect book to keep me interested and motivated throughout.

So, the plot of this book is mostly focused on the city of Sharakhai which is a city in the middle of the desert, ruled over by twelve kings. The Kings are ruthless beyond belief if you cross them, and they have the ultimate decision on anything and everything within the culture. Often times the general public will see very little of the Kings themselves, but they will never fail to notice the brutal and bloody punishments decided by the Kings upon those who betray them.
The kings are protected at all times by the Blade Maidens, a ruthless group who are all the children of the King's themselves and thus utterly loyal. they are deadly, quick-witted and fast which makes them fairly impossible to defeat on mass - not people you'd want to cross. Basically, it's a pretty nasty society if you mess with a King, but if you stay out of the way you can have a decent enough life.

In terms of the characters we follow we're actually not following a King or Blade Maiden at all but a young lady called Çeda and her best friend Emre. They have been the best of friends since they were particularly young and their friendship throughout this book was excellently portrayed. I think seeing the way that they've both been through so much living in this city and they've stood by one another and helped each other made them very admirable characters to me.
Çeda is a pit fighter which means she's a fairly good fighter and is well known in Sharakhai as the White Wolf (her hidden identity). She has many reasons for wanting to become a pit fighter and as you read further through the book you discover her motivations and the actions taken by the Kings against her and people she knows which has driven her to the pits. We're essentially following Çeda as she tries to uncover the mysteries (and there are a lot) not only of herself and her past but that of her family and the city itself.

Emre's character was also very solid throughout and although they're not the only two we focus on they're definitely the two most major. I thought that seeing Emre's pov as well as Çeda's was a great choice on the author's part as it meant that we truly saw the motivations behind his actions and it wasn't a one-sided misunderstanding as often can happen within books whenever conflict occurs. I liked both Çeda and Emre as a pair and alone, and I thought both were equally strong, independent and caring of the other in their own way.

Another element I particularly liked about this was the inclusion of Gods, magic and magical items such as the flowers and the mystical creatures. We have a fair amount of magic included and although there's not a specific magic system it's all very interesting and easy to follow which I appreciated.

The story is fun and very filled with unexpected twists. I couldn't anticipate exactly where things would go, and I very much enjoyed following along and seeing all of the threads align and come together.

This book is basically a set up for the series and I get the feeling that we have a LOT more to come, which is very exciting, and s I have only given it a 4*s but I did really, really enjoy this and I'll certainly be looking to get book 2 whenever it's released and continue the series. If you're looking for something that's a lot of fun and a very interesting read then this is it for sure, recommended! :)
Profile Image for Matt Smith.
292 reviews13 followers
October 6, 2015
Writers of fantasy books tend to love their mythology. I mean, we're nerds. It's what we love. We love any world that isn't this one, a place where our imagination is allowed to run rampant, where we can create and design entire systems of government, economy, class, politics, and, of course, magic. And it can take over an author's brain, be the most interesting thing about whatever it is a given author is obsessed with.

I mean, it's not like any story has ever gotten LESS mythology-obsessed as it goes on. No, the opposite is inevitably always true.

If you asked, I don't know what made me read this book. There's a part of me that is still looking for the ultimate fantasy. I'm, as previously stated, looking in avant garde places for that story: mythologies that aren't based exclusively on Medieval Europe. And this seems to have all the hallmarks of something that I would like. Or at least that I should give a try. I'd never heard of Bradley P. Beaulieu before this, so I went into this about as blind as anyone can.

And it had a cool cover.

But look, this book is about as vapid a fantasy novel as you can possibly get. Most of the reviews talk about how great the world is that Beaulieu creates here, and sure, fine. It's a world. But anyone can do that. That's not what makes a compelling novel. It's not what makes a compelling story. And at almost 600 pages this book is way too long for... anything, really. It makes me appreciate something like Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon. That story at least had a tone to work with. At least that was a pulpy adventure novel. This was... just... I couldn't even tell you.

This isn't a slam against Beaulieu, persay. I'm sure he's a wonderful person and he's writing a book that (at least so far) people seem to be responding very positively to. Unfortunately, it's 600 pages of basically nothing happening while the main character works to suss out the mythology of this world. Like. Fine. If that's your novel, that's fine. You are allowed to do that. But in terms of being a story that will capture my attention, this is not how you do that. This is a "story" that is entirely fluff, entirely surface, and entirely contingent on how interesting you find Beaulieu's world of Sharakhai (and I must admit it's not exactly the most inspired thing ever. There are twists you will see coming from a mile away). I mean, jesus christ, it even ends with "BUT WHAT ELSE DOES THIS MYTHOLOGY PIECE MEAN" from the main character before saying in as many words "well that's something to figure out in the next book. Or five." Which is... I just like to think that fantasy is past this. Or can get past this. That at some point we can learn the lessons from writers like JK Rowling or Joss Whedon or Patrick Rothfuss or even Brandon Sanderson in that these characters are the most important things in a story. That's what it's about. I could fucking care less about Sharakhai if it's not saying something about the world, the human condition, or SOMETHING grander than "I made up a desert world with kings and tribes".

And sure, there are SOME places he swerves. The relationship between Çeda, the main character, and her "brother" Emre did take an interesting turn towards the end. I just wish it didn't take over 500 pages to get to that point. I wish that this book wasn't mired by nonstop backstory and flashbacks that accomplished essentially NOTHING in the overall scope of this book. I wish it didn't spend so much time with Çeda basically wandering around brooding or doing nothing. Yeah. It opens with an action scene of pit fighting and then immediately moved onto her having sex, but those established expectations that the book never ever followed up on (which is to say nothing about the skeeviness of sexualizing the 19 year old heroine in a way that felt creepy rather than empowering).

So this wasn't for me. Maybe it's for others. But it's the sorta book that makes me hate reading because this is just.... I wish that we were past this. Maybe if it had come out 30 years ago it would have been something special, but now it just feels dated, stilted, boring, and an utterly gobstopping waste of time.
Profile Image for Lisa.
346 reviews534 followers
August 28, 2016
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2016/0...

4.5/5 stars

This book released last year, and somehow I missed it. What I didn’t miss was how many Best Of lists it made at the end of the year. A clear sign I overlooked something good, and so I had to find a way to fit it in (and this is not a short a book). A perfect Backlist Burndown choice! Turns out I am very glad I chose it this month.

Epic fantasy is what drew me into the Fantasy genre, and its always so wonderful to read the first in a new series. This book is no exception. I was immediately hooked thanks to Çeda, the main protagonist. She is everything I love in a strong female lead character. She is not just strong willed and determined, but also a fighter that can kick some serious ass. I know women characters can be strong in many other ways, and I always appreciate that, but I have to confess, I do love it when they can also stand their ground strong in battle, or in this case, the fighting pits.

So right away, I felt like I was going to really enjoy this one just based on how quickly I connected with Çeda. Then came the benefit of the world building. This book doesn’t just stop at having an amazing female lead, it also creates a visually, politically and magically interesting story. It gets solid points in pretty much every category I can think of. With a desert setting, ports are for ships that sail not on water, but on sand. There is sand everywhere! And water is scarce. The story is set in the city of Sharakhai, which is thriving port city and major commerce point in the world. This brings all varieties of people and cultures to the city, giving you glimpses of the wider world.

Structurally, we learn more about the history of the world as well as the characters through flashbacks. This is a case of flashbacks done well. They broaden our understanding of magic, the kings, as well as of Çeda. The land is ruled by 12 Kings, who are both ruthless and immortal. Never a fun combination. Between the kings and their formidable soldiers and warriors, they are pretty much untouchable.

And as for the character Çeda, I felt she stayed compelling through out the book. She has been essentially on her own for years since her mother’s death, living with her friend Emre. She is certainly not infallible, which I appreciate. But is she is tough, a fighter in more than one sense of the word. She also has an air of mystery as she has several secrets, one is that she maintains a secret identity as “The White Wolf” when she competes in the pits and has a formidable record.

The story really kicks off as Çeda breaks the Kings rules to leave the city on a holy night, when being out is forbidden. From here, she is set on a journey to unravel riddles to solve a mystery that may allow her the vengeance she is seeking. I honestly don’t think I had any complaints or criticisms with this book. I was fully engaged and intrigued the entire time and was in a way sad to reach the final page, knowing I will have to wait for the next book before I can return. Highly recommend. (and luckily there is novella releasing soon to tide me over until the sequel to this one is released.)
Profile Image for Chris Rhodes.
263 reviews542 followers
March 6, 2017
4-4.5ish - Wonderfully written epic fantasy with characters that stand out, a world that's fully realized, and a story that constantly moves from one thing to the next. While slow at times, and though it has a steep learning curve, this is more than worth the time it takes to read. Full video review: https://youtu.be/4ZA1kAk2pVY
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