I’m putting King’s Justice down 160 pages in, or roughly at halfway point in the book, and I can’t recall when I’ve felt more cheated by a sequel. I loved the first book in this series, King Maker, but even then, I’d noted that the book spent more time with the villains than it did with the heroes. This felt fitting to me in the first book, because Arthurian legends aren’t so much about King Arthur as they are about his kingdom. Nevertheless, I assumed that with the street gangs in King’s Indianapolis hood having fallen apart, the second book would be more about King and his crew of “knights.”
No, instead, we’re introduced to a group of gang bangers so similar that even if one is fae and the other is a human haunted by his childhood encounter with the lady of the lake, there’s virtually no difference in their methods of running gangs. Both men strive to look hard in everything they do, and as a result, neither man has any personality, nor do they give readers any reason to ride shotgun with them.
I think that if this were an gangland urban fantasy without trying to cling to Arthurian legend, it might have worked. If I were rating this as a standalone novel with no connection to King Arthur, my expectations would be vastly different. But this second book in an Arthurian series is a bait and switch, and the heroes have not had a role in this story at all. They’re an afterthought. Everyone is an afterthought, and I’ve struggled to make it this far due to a wandering, head hopping narration and a lack of direction for any character, good or bad. More and more new characters are piled on, and I just don’t care about any of them.
Another problem is the depiction of all women in this book. I realize that the author is trying to show how these gangstas and hustlers think, but given the amount of head hopping already going on, I would have liked to see something more substantial in the way of character development for the ladies returning from the first book. But even when they are given time to develop, it’s in repetitive ways that seem to reinforce that all women are just sneaky hos looking for a way up the food chain.
My breaking point finally came when a gang lieutenant is given The Ring, allowing him to turn invisible and beat a larger man with impunity. Cribbing The Hobbit in the middle of what was supposed to be a retelling of King Arthur’s legend was one plot device too far, and I only made it another five pages before I decided to drop the story. Even the return of Dred (Mordred) couldn’t keep me locked in this dull pattern of self-destructive posturing.
Given how much I gushed over the first book, I really wanted this to go somewhere, and it never did. This story loses focus so badly that even though I bought the third book, King’s War, I’m not going to bother reading it either. With apologies to the author, whom I have great respect for due to his much better writing in The Devil’s Marionette and King Maker, I give King’s Justice 1 star. Again, I feel like the victim of a bait and switch. I was told to expect a story of the Knights of Indianapolis, and instead I am forced to ride with a gang of unmemorable and unlikable knaves instead.