Author – D. P. Woolliscroft
Pages – 596
There are minor spoilers for Kingshold in this review, though I’m confident most of them have been ironed out.
If you want to read my review for Kingshold first, you can do so here!
A deeper dive into D P Woolliscroft’s wonderful high fantasy world, building on everything that made the first two books in this series such a delight.
D. P. Woolliscroft has became an insta-buy author after three brilliant entries in his imaginative high fantasy series The Wildfire Cycle.
I’m going to focus mostly on the three highlight elements I chose for this book. Of course, there was lots more to Ioth than these three aspects alone, but they were particularly strong.
As with Kingshold and Tales of Kingshold, I enjoyed the immersion of being back on The Jeweled Continent and the world Woolliscroft has dreamt up. Ioth, City of Lights certainly expands on what we know about the world and the cultures and peoples within it, gaining greater insight into Redpool and Pyrfew, aswell as the unique city of Ioth itself. We learn about Arloth and the way in which religion has an effect on the continent – although politics again plays a major role, religion is much more prominent and central throughout the plot this time, which adds an extra dimension to the political manoeuverings so prevalent in Kingshold.
You really do get the feeling that the author has put so much time and thought into creating living, breathing, believable cities and although it’s a high fantasy and there is magic and creatures and races, these urban environments feel like real places from history.
The story isn’t confined to the city at all times though, and there is still that sense of adventure. There are naval battles and wizard’s towers to explore, and of course plenty of swords and sorcery. I feel like the traditional high fantasy elements (which I always find comforting and relaxing in a way) and the seriousness of other aspects – such as character mortality (!!) strikes a really nice balance that adds to the quality feel of the book.
Now, it’s all well and good putting so much effort into building a world. But that world has to be fun, or interesting, or unique, or imaginative. And the storytelling ability here ticks every box. Dave Woolliscroft is the type of author I’d love to spend a few hours in a pub with, who I’m sure would have some brilliant stories to tell, such is his imagination and wit. I mentioned immersion earlier in the review, and you can really get lost in the writing ability and creativity – you zone out oblivious to the outside world and suddenly you’re another 100 pages in (or x number of minutes – I both alternated between listening to the audiobook and reading the ebook, using whispersync).
Many stories end with the protagonist beating the bad guys and getting the throne (or the role of Lord Protector) and that concludes the arc. What Ioth does is, following on from the events of Kingshold, shows what the reality is once that power is attained. When you’re striving for power, there is a degree of nothing to lose, no expectations. Once you have it, you’re against all those who would take power for themselves, and living up to the expectations of the ones who helped you to get it. Along with having to negotiate the pitfalls of diplomacy, both domestic and abroad – it isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be! I like that Mareth’s new reality is laid bare; I think there are times he’d like to go back to an anonymous corner of a tavern and sit back with a big glass of ale!
I’m not going to touch on every new character introduced or what the old ones are up to; there are blurbs for that – and reading the book itself. But I have to mention how great all the characters are in Ioth – fully three dimensional, no tired old tropes. And if you didn’t fully commit to caring about the characters so far, you will do now.
I haven’t had the pleasure of playing D&D myself, though I know many of the best character writers in the fantasy genre have a background playing this game, due to the requirement for building great characters. It wouldn’t surprise me if Dave is one of them. I’d go as far as to say every single character is interesting, unique and brings something new to the table – you’re never left bored by any of them. I feel like that’s really difficult to pull off.
Using the highlights system, Characters you love should really be one of the three aspects chosen. Why wasn’t it? Well…
The light hearted aspects interspersed throughout the novel were just so entertaining once again! They’re not stand up jokes that would benefit from being copy pasted out of context – it’s the tone, the British sense of humour, the audacity of some of the jokes that come out of nowhere.
I don’t actually like ‘funny fantasy’ – not a huge fan of satire, or anything like that. And The Wildfire Cycle isn’t a series that has comedy as its main attraction or most prominent feature.
There is just something incredibly enjoyable about a book that in many ways is very serious, being also able to share something funny. And it’s a way for the author’s personality to shine through the pages and leave his mark. Often these sort of asides or metaphors are unexpected, and that’s why they make you laugh. You might think that takes you out of the immersion, never knowing when to expect a joke but it’s not like that; the delivery is always done extremely well and often it is just a tongue in cheek or subtle comment. It provokes a slight grin before you continue reading. Just trust me on this. Brilliant. Maybe it’s a British thing – I can’t imagine any Brits not finding the humour and hopefully it translates well to readers from other backgrounds!
This is a series that hasn’t yet built up the readership it deserves. The thing is, if you check out the reviews, everyone who has read it tends to love it. Put your faith in this series, and I’m confident you will too.
Be careful what you strive for.
The people won and now Mareth is Lord Protector of Edland. But winning an election is a lot different than governing a country, especially when the empire of Pyrfew is expanding into the Sapphire Sea. In the interests of peace, Mareth must dispatch Alana to Ioth, city of a thousand lights, to convince the ruling merchants to turn their back on the empire. Neenahwi, armed with the knowledge revealed to her in her coming of age ceremony, desperately wants to determine Pyrfew’s plans and to take the fight to the emperor. But Llewdon, ancient elven emperor of Pyrfew, has had decades to develop his schemes and his agents are embedded in the least expected places. Everything seems to revolve around the disappearance of Jyuth’s master a millennia ago.
Will the heroes of Kingshold be able to survive fire belching ships, strange slimes, sinister doppelgängers, demon dogs, greedy merchants and past vices to lead Edland to safety?