Review of The Castle of Kings

I finished The Castle of Kings this past weekend. I can’t recommend it. I’ve had a rough time with books this year. My history with literature is an on again, off again love story. I initially started reading for pleasure in middle school when I started consuming comic books. My interests transitioned into Fantasy and Science Fiction novels in early high school. As I write this I’m looking at the Dragonlance Chronicles which were the first series of novels I ever read. Fantasy will always have a place in my heart.

In late high school I transitioned to classics. I was the weird kid who read Shakespeare for fun. In this day and age I think that enjoying classics and fantasy may be cool. Believe me, it wasn’t in the 90s. You can be guaranteed that anyting I touched or enjoyed wasn’t cool. By the end of high school I entered my beatnick phase as I read On the Road and multiple books of Kerouac’s poetry.

In college I stopped all educational development and focused on social development. I didn’t read a single book in four years. It was the right choice. While taking a four year vacation to work on getting comfortable with myself seems self-centered and wasteful, I left college a better person than I was going in.

When I joined the real world after college I decided to take on reading again. Much like my childhood I started with Fantasy. At the time Stephen King’s Dark Tower series was in its prime. I continued to read different genres until I had my daughter.

Having a child interrupts so much and for me, reading was one of those things that dropped to the wayside. I never completely stopped reading. Having a child wasn’t as disruptive as college to my literary needs but it never returned to the status of a primary hobby.

This year I want to change that and I’ve done a good job so far. I’ve read 4 books over three months. Now, I’m obviously not lighting the world on fire with that quantity of reading but it’s good for me compared to the last 10 years. It’s especially good because the books haven’t been that good. I started the year with a book from my old boss, How Will You Measure Your Life? It was a good, quick read. I took away some things. There are a couple of takeaways which I’ve written down and I need to spend some time answering some key questions about my life.

The next book was a science fiction book who’s title I’ve already forgotten. It was on sale at a book store and it was a New York Times notable book a couple years ago as well as a recommendation from Oprah’s book club. It was well written in terms of the use of the english language ( I wish I could say the same about this blog.) But the story didn’t capture my attention at all and I just slogged my way through it until finished. At that point, I said to myself, I’m glad that’s over.

Then I decided to take a break and do some easy reading. I read a fictional murder mystery which took place in Glacier National Park. I’ve been to Glacier once. I absolutely loved it. The location of the story was one of two reasons I purchased the book, the second was that it was on the clearance rack. (You’ll start to notice a theme about the price of the books I buy.) It was quick and lighthearted and I enjoyed it not for the story but for my own ability to see Glacier and the surrounding area in my mind after not seeing it in person for over a decade.

Next was a western. Generally speaking, I love westerns. Both on the big screen and in the written word. This one, not so much. Where did I find it? You can guess. The book’s main character was supposedly a strong feminist heroine. I found her weak and racist. Thumbs down.

That brought me to The Castle of Kings. Now for once I did not get this off of the clearance rack. That being said, I did buy it from a Read it Again books so I was purchasing a second hand novel. Based on the cover it was historical fiction with a hint of fantasy. Just what the Dr. ordered after a litany of meh. Unfortunately, I got more meh. It was 644 pages that landed no where.

Ending a story is tough. It’s tough for that ending to satisfy a majority of consumers let alone all. That being said, I don’t mind things being left up in the air. I don’t mind having to finish a story for myself. There are those that hate how the Sopranos ended and those who love it. I fall into the second camp.

Well The Castle of Kings did something so much worse than leave things up in the air. The story might as well have ended with the final sentence, “There was no point in this story.” The first two hundred pages were strong enough. It set up the main characters, the heroes, the villains and it also was a little heavy handed in social hierarchy and the strife that results because of it. The next two hundred pages was a random side quest for no reason. It pulled the heroes apart in space and time just to put them back together again. But don’t worry there was no character development in those two hundred pages.

The final two hundred pages wrapped things up, but the epilogue was infuriating. Everything the main characters suffered for over multiple years was all for naught. They gave everything up. Society and destiny pushed everything on them and after getting it, they decided, “no thanks,” even though they had the opportunity to make a difference in the world. Just to reiterate the first third of the book is about societal strife and when the main characters have the ability to do something about this, they don’t. In other words, this book is another disappointment.

So I’m off to the next book and I’m returning to where I started the year. It’s another non-fiction book which I hope gets me to be self-reflective, The Algebra of Happiness by Scott Galloway. Maybe I’ll write about it when I finish it. I’m 10% through it according to my Kindle and so far so good.

I do think it’s a good sign that I continue to read even though my choices have been less than stellar. I want to, need to, keep it up. It’s meditative, relaxing and I’d also like to think that I grow a little with every book I read.