The Almost King
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher
Aleks is the youngest of four brothers, each of whom has their future nice and predictably mapped out. Marriage, kids and so on, content to stay in their little village. But Aleks wants more than that life, more than living in his little village and working in his father's shop. He wants to travel, see the world....fly. So when he hears his parents talking about money or rather, the lack of it, he decides to save them some money and heads down south to find some form of work.
When Aleks arrives down south there's a distinct lack of work, so he decides to enlist in the army. But the army isn't all it's believed to be. There's deception and corruption and when Aleks begins to realise this, he deserts. Fleeing to the north. It's there that he stumbles upon the life he always wanted, although that didn't really include being hunted down by a lieutenant determined to drag him back to Rensav.
He finds friends, a home, an interesting job with a mildly crazy old inventor, and he also finds love. It's when his new inventor boss reveals his biggest project, that he also finds adventure and a skyship of his own to Captain. His adventure will take him to places no-one has ever ventured before.
This series really does get better and better! I loved the first book when it came out, it had it's own brand of originality to it and we all know I love books that are a little bit different. There's an entirely different world, skyships, it has Tyrium that fuels most things, and it was totally different from anything I had read before, it was an easy to read fantasy that I quickly marked down as one I would read again and again, and would sit and wait eagerly for the next book.
Now, this is a sequel, and as much as I loved Take Back the Skies and the characters and wanted to see what else happened to Cat after the heartbreaking ending and what happened to Matt and Ben, I was kind of glad that this had totally new characters, because I couldn't really see what would happen next in Cats world, and I love the idea of each of the books in the series showing a different part of the rather extensive world.
The world of Tellus is imaginative and richly vivid. The world building sucks you in to the book and you become lost to the real world as you galavant around Tellus with the characters. The book and it's world and characters completely take you out of reality and it's always a bit of a jolt when you surface from the book and back to the real world. The world of Tellus is clearly very extensive, and while I can work out where some of the countries may be based, Mericus and Siberene for example, others are a bit of a mystery. Throughout the book we hear bits and pieces about the other lands, but I'm itching to actually get to their books and learn all about them.
Siberene is different to Anglya, Anglya is a mining country and seems to be like England with it's weather and so on, I'm fairly certain Anglya is based on England for some obvious reasons. Siberene is very monochrome, cold, dark, I was picturing Russia and winter and cold when I was reading haha. From the sounds of it, each country has it's own different look and feel and the atmosphere of Siberene comes off the page and gets under your skin.
While this is a sequel but not really a sequel, and had new characters and a new plot and a new setting to the first book, this book was linked to the first book nicely. It's linked without having the plot being taken over by threads from the previous book and basically being Skies part two. It was a little thing, that had importance to the plot as it's why Shulga was determined to hunt him down, but it wasn't the entire plot of the book and I kept thinking something huge was going to happen with it but then it didn't and it was dealt with and tied up nicely. The main plot of the book is Aleks fleeing the army and flying to the Stormlands and so on.
I enjoyed the idea of the expedition to the Stormlands that no-one has ever managed to get through before, it had the kind of huge expeditions of history feel to it but in an entirely different way. I liked the questions and issues it raised, about the land being ruined by people and so on. I would imagine that's what some people would have thought before other lands which are now countries where colonized. But I liked that they didn't want to colonise it and destroy it.
I can't really decide if this book is a little bit darker than the first one. I mean the first one was kinda dark with the whole kids thing, but maybe what I mean is that this one is a bit more violent with the army and how things are there and the whole Kara thing. This one just felt like it was a bit more mature or darker, or something than the first one.
In the least rude way possible, the writing in this book has definitely improved. In the first book it was very easy to read, I sped through, and there where a few moments when it was quite cheesy and cliche, don't get me wrong I loved the first book and I don't really mind the odd cliche and cheese so it wasn't a problem for me. The writing in this book seemed more grown up, more mature and at another level to the first book. I can't really describe it, but I definitely thought there was a difference in the writing between the two books and a bit in the tone. But it was all good, like I'm just making a note that it's different! Which just means the series is getting better and better because I'm confident that the next book will be, again, on another level. I have no idea which bit we'll visit next though!
There was a cutely, subtle romance that bloomed naturally and adorably, and even had a little bit of an obstacle in the form of an aunt whose comments had me snorting, chuckling and rolling my eyes! The romance also had some conflict with everything going on, and rather than being just for the sake of drama, it was all natural and organic and was just a perfectly written romance really! It was subtle and didn't take over the plot, it was as an addition to enhance rather than the main focus of the book.
The Almost King takes us on a sweeping journey across Siberene, we see the west and the village Aleks lives in, we see the south and the north and a fair amount of Siberene, as well as the Stormlands. So it's not like we get just a glimpse, we get a proper look at this other country that we heard so much about in the first book and saw briefly. We even see the exact place from the first book, and I loved the comments about it being the tourist area and the grass being imported for the tourists, and I had a chuckle remembering Cat noting it! She even gets a few mentions as well!
The Almost King has everything you love in a good book, it's got romance, action, adventure and even, regrettably, heartbreak. Now it wasn't quite as heartbreaking as the death in the first book, but it was pretty up there to be honest. I think I'm so jaded by Game of Thrones that I'm reading books like this, and I'm thinking the worst is going to happen. I'm like "something really bad is going to happen, this person is going to get killed or something or something's going to go horrifically wrong" or "that character is going to screw this person over" and while there is a bit of betrayal and a death that literally had me like "NO OMG NO", I wasn't expecting them at all. Then the bits that I was expecting bad stuff to happen....nothing bad ever did so I was constantly being surprised with no idea what was going to happen next.
Aleks was easy to connect with, I could relate to him quite well to be honest! I've had many of the same feelings he has regarding family, although not with an actual sibling! The dangers of having a cousin near enough the same age as you! Anyway, he was realistic, believable and very well created as was the rest of the colourful and lively cast of characters. Each is well developed with plenty of depth and dimensions to them. I really felt for him and felt everything he did regarding his brothers.
Shulga reeked of shadiness and was so creepy and just ugh. I shuddered when I was reading about him multiple times he was kind of the perfect villain. The King wasn't what I was expecting, he was kind of a douche to be honest. But it did make a change as I was expecting him to be all nice and everything! I LOVED Luka, he made me laugh so much and he was so, so lively and vivid, and he jumped off of the page just slightly more than the others! But only slightly! He kind of reminded me a bit of Doc Brown as well if I'm honest haha. Aleks's brothers where an interesting bunch, but I was sad we didn't get to see more of them! I also really, really loved Zhora and Drazan and Raina and Ksenia and Bodan. The brothers where just brilliantly separate and together, their relationship brought a smile to my face as I was reading about them together. The Compass crew, well Ksenia reminded me a bit of Alice, and they were the perfect home away from home for Aleks and I felt like they all appreciated him more than his actual family from what I'd seen. I was so glad that Raina wasn't a love interest to make a love triangle, I loved Aleks and Raina's relationship and it was so well done.
Saria was pleasantly surprising. I mean at the beginning I had this suspicion she was going to be horrible and he'd end up with Raina but I was pleasantly surprised with how things panned out. Saria was actually quite a brilliant character, and the perfect match for Aleks. I loved her right up until she did the thing. I kept thinking she'd been forced in to doing it or coerced, and when I realised she'd done it because she was angry, my opinion changed of her a little bit and I was a little bit like "okay she betrayed you but you're not even angry at her, you just instantly forgive her?" that was the only bit that seemed a bit suspect to me but then it's all got to be wrapped up in one book and so we can't have ages faffing I suppose!
The Almost King is vividly created, richly brought to life, imaginative, atmospheric and cinematic. The world is extensive, with visible differences in each country that I loved noting as I read. The politics of this new country where complex, it had an atmosphere to it that seeped over you. The plot was soaring and intricate and had a lot going on, all of which was perfectly wrapped up by the end without rushing things. The threads of the plot were combined in to one web, with subtle links to the first book and a subtle romance to make you squeal. The characters where relatable, colourful and lively, brought to life right before your eyes. The tone of this book is different to the first book, and this one is even better than the first! I can't wait to see where the series is going next. It gets better and better and stronger and stronger.