Welcome to the elven world of Sevrigel. A world that is as beautiful as it is corrupt. The elven city of Elvorium has become so corrupted by the politicians who rule it, that it seems to most that there is no coming back. Until, that is, Prince Hairem ascends the throne. While J.J. Sherwood's Kings or Pawns is definitely Epic Fantasy, it's also filled with all manner of political intrigue and moral discussions. If you're looking for a book that is as deep as it is descriptive, look no further. This is your next read.
Now I feel it only fair to warn potential readers that this is definitely first and foremost a political thriller. The inner workings of the elven council play a huge role in this story, going so far as to discuss the actual battle plans that are being arranged. Everything is described in perfect detail. Which means, happily, that this book works equally well for readers of both genres. Trust me when I say that Sherwood doesn't skimp on the world building at all. Kings or Pawns is vividly written, with settings that pop off of the page. So Epic Fantasy readers will be content, and those who love political intrigue will also be content. It's truly a win/win situation.
The characters will probably steal your heart either way. While there are multiple POVs present in this story, Jikun and Hairem get the lion's share of the spotlight. Not that I'm complaining, as both of them were wonderful characters. Jikun is extremely brave, loyal to a fault, and full of the kind of opinions that make him blasphemous to some and level headed to others. I loved his character. His bantering with Nevon was giggle worthy, but then in the next chapter he'd be placed in a situation that made his valiant nature shine through. The fact that he was so three dimensional, faults and all, made him easy to follow along with. Hairem is much the same. Being of noble blood, and tasked to lead his people, his character was even more faceted. Hairem is intelligent and kind, but not afraid to stand up for what he believes in. The fact that Sherwood didn't let up on him, but instead had many other character agendas coming at him from all sides. It made him a much more vivid character, and I was proud to follow him through this adventure.
As for plot, well that would take ages and many more paragraphs than I have the energy to write to fully gush over. The fact that there is so much of a political spin to this book is perfection, because the fantasy portion of it slides right beneath it, skimming right under the surface. Before you know it there are dragons, mythical beasts to slay, and even magic. Yet because of the beautifully articulated world of Sevrigel, and how structured the lives of the elves are, it feels like it has one foot in reality. I've read plenty of books with massive maps, and large character rosters. It takes a really good writer to make that palatable on such a huge scale, and J.J. Sherwood manages just that.
There were a few things I would have loved to see more of, mainly our female characters who are amazing but don't get too much face time. Ilsafel especially is a character that I'd love to see more of. Any female character who is as versed in politics, and as intelligent, as her male counterpart makes me smile. I also felt like the ending fell a tiny bit shy of the epic conclusion I was hoping for. That's a mild complaint though, because all this build up is pushing towards the second book and I can't wait.