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Publisher's Summary

A deformed genius plots vengeance while struggling to survive. A wastrel prince comes of age, finding a power he never imagined. Two worlds are destined to collide. Only one can be king.

Ruka, called a demon at birth, is a genius. Born malformed and ugly into the snow-covered wasteland of the Ascom, he was spared from death by his mother's love. Now he is an outcast, consumed with hate for those who've wronged him. But to take his vengeance, he must first survive.

Across a vast sea in the white-sand island paradise of Sri Kon, Kale is fourth and youngest son of the Sorcerer King. And at 16, Kale is a disappointment. As the first prince ever forced to serve with low-born marines, Kale must prove himself and become a man, or else lose all chance of a worthy future, and any hope to win the love of his life.

Though they do not know it, both boys are on the cusp of discovery. Their worlds and lives are destined for greatness, or ruin. But in a changing world where ash meets paradise, only one man can be king....

©2017 Richard Nell (P)2018 Richard Nell

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Grimdark at its finest

KINGS OF PARADISE by Richard Nell is one of the favorites to win the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (#SPFBO). It is a story which has been recommended to me over and over again. I was surprised by this because the fantasy fans I hang around with are a very cynical bunch. If one liked THE POPPY WARS, then the next disliked it. I was a huge fan of 1000 SCARS but others were iffy about it. Here? Just about everyone who read this novel had nothing but praise for it. They said it was the best grimdark they'd read since THE GREY BASTARDS or WHERE LOYALTIES LIE. So, i decided to check it out.

What did I think? Kings of Paradise is really solid fantasy. I didn't like it quite as much as the aforementioned books but it's definitely something that both earns its moniker of grimdark (which I define as "dark, gritty fantasy for adults") but also is just good fiction in general. The characters are interesting, the twists are actually unpredictable, and world-building is solid. This is one of those books for people who don't like their fantasy to read like Dungeons and Dragons but more like George R.R. Martin or Joe Abercrombie.

The premise is centered around three characters: Ruka, Kale, and Dala. Ruka is a deformed cannibal savage who may be the son of a god but is certainly the son of a witch. After being raised with love by his mother, he is cast out of civilized society by a corrupt priestess--which causes him to decide that it his destiny to destroy the old world. Kale is the spoiled prince of an island nation is that is one part England and one part Polynesia. Dala is a beautiful farm girl who grew up on a impoverished farm with an abusive father, when a chance encounter with Ruka results in her deciding to join the upper-crust priestesses on what she believes is a mission from her goddess.

Ruka is an interesting character and reminds me a bit of Kratos from God of War crossed with Caliban from The Tempest--not exactly a very common pair of team-ups. He's a genius with the face of a monster and his rage is all-consuming. He's not quite as sharp as he thinks he is and his only real move is "burn down everything that ticks him off." It's an effective move, though, and it's interesting how his partners keep trying to screw him--only to realize they've brought down holy hell on their heads.

Kale is a character I want to punch in the face and that's a good thing because it's what the author obviously intended as a reaction. Kale reminds me strongly of Jezal from THE FIRST LAW TRILOGY and his romance with Lala is not too dissimilar to said character's romance with Ardee West. That isn't to say the characters are identical but they have arcs of privileged individuals discovering their privilege comes with severe costs and have left them helpless once outside their comfort zone. The fact he discovers he has an incredible talent that can change the world struck me as a bit annoying but I am interested in where it takes him.

Dala is probably my favorite character in the story and I was saddened her role wasn't bigger. Dala is a seemingly sweet poor girl with a story which wouldn't be too out of home in a Disney movie, right before it goes in a bizarre and horrifying direction. When confronted with women who are going to kick her out of the priesthood and destroy her life solely because of her impoverished background, she assembles an army of assassins from the lower classes. It shows a woman with a keen sense of survival and who is every bit as dangerous as Ruka.

I like Kings of Paradise and recommend it for people who want to see a big complicated story with multiple interlocking parts. The book is divided into three parts and really does feel like reading an entire trilogy in one sitting. That's more bang for your book, though, and I'm interested in where the story goes from here. I think readers will enjoy the care and detail Richard Nell has put into his masterpiece and I'll certainly be picking up the next installment.

And the narration? Perfect!

16 people found this helpful

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Couldn’t Finish

After reading good reviews about this book I was looking forward to the listen. I got a couple chapters in, but unfortunately I had to give up. The narrator Ralph Lister was grating on my ears. His normal voice was ok, however when he acted out the voices of the characters he began screeching in high pitched horrible noise. I tried to continue but was constantly adjusting the volume as his screeching would be exceptionally louder than his normal voice. This became especially more evident when chapter two switched to a military setting and every soldier had these screeching voices. It was like listening to someone scratching a chalk board through your headphones.

The narration is unfortunate because I was really enjoying the story itself, even though I was only a few chapters in. I wanted to continue on, and tried again, but when the narration became to much of a distraction to my enjoyment of the story I gave up.

I would maybe go on and read this book instead of listen, but my eyes aren’t what they used to be, which is why I started listening to books in the first place. So it is doubtful I will.

4 people found this helpful

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Great book. Can’t wait for second to be on audible!

I don’t review many book but this was a great surprise! I was running out of titles and looking for anything to fill the gap before new books are released and hit on this one. Great book! If audible doesn’t offer number two I will actually buy the book (the physical kind..gasp!) because it is that good. Well done Mr. Nell. You have added a fan to your ranks.

3 people found this helpful

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Narration is so horrid

Whenever the narrator talks I have the fight the urge to drive into oncoming traffic.

*I am about two hours into the book and i actually really like the story and the writing style. But wow, you really should maybe just physically read this one.

I have no idea what the Narrator was thinking, I honestly might just quit the book because of him. His normal voice is great! But literally every character, I guess in his mind has this super nasally, high pitch yell of a voice. This isn’t with just one or two of the characters he narrates. LITERALLY EVERY CHARACTER SOUNDS THE SAME. The prince who was raised in court for some freaking reason has the same backwater, nail grating accent as the savage kid raised by a witch in the woods. I have no idea what this guy was thinking designing these voices, maybe they really underpaid him. Like, giving him an ITunes giftcard type of pay. He even has the yell all the lines so I have to put the volume on so low that I can barely hear the words, solely based on the fact that his voice fluctuates on extreme levels.

I apologize if this turned into a rant. I am just somewhat upset because the narrator literally ruined an otherwise very promising book. I’m going to see if I can still struggle though the rest. I’m also glad i’m not the only one with this opinion.

2 people found this helpful

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great entertainment

loved it, need the others on auditable , can't wait for the rest of the trilogy

2 people found this helpful

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good listen

great performance good story. very vivid and clear and many good characters and if you buy with credit point a great price.

1 person found this helpful

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perfect

I loved this book. it was thrilling, graphic, beautiful and incredibly impressive. the world was believable and the character building done with great depth. this is my new best listen.

1 person found this helpful

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wow. did not expect that.

That took me by surprise, it was a fabulous book I've never heard of it, just gave it a try. It was great . Cant wait for more.

1 person found this helpful

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The Scribblings Review of Kings of Paradise

A disfigured orphan plans his revenge on those responsible for the death of his mother & his exile.
A younger prince searches for a way to prove his worth and discovers a power believed lost.
A novice priestess is determined to remake her order as she sees fit.

Kings of Paradise is not for the faint of heart but it does let you know this upfront. Any book where the first paragraph has a main character intent on cannibalizing someone he just killed can’t be accused of not giving you fair warning.

A lot of work has obviously gone into this book, beginning with the world building. Distinct nations, races and locales are well-developed so that each stands out. There is also a great sense of history in the world as well, with lands having their own legends and traditions, some of which the characters either find themselves victims of or look to turn to their advantage.

Each of the three main characters are given chapters from their point of view to advance the story. Ruka is probably the most difficult. Beginning as a child, shunned and cursed by everyone except his mother, he quickly develops into a ruthless killer as well as the above mentioned cannibal. He also seems capable of great mental feats, including his creation of a mental place which echoes the mind palace of another famous cannibal. As the years pass, and he attains his first measure of revenge, his goals begin to change, becoming more enamored with building his own myth and launching conquest.

Kale is the one in the most traditional (and least blood-thirsty) mold. Being the younger son of a king, he has no especially defined role and is put into military service, then later a monastery, in hopes he might find a place (or be out of the way). As he progress, he begins to show both a natural leadership and a strong independent streak.

The third character, Dala, is somewhere between the two. Driven to protect those close to her but equally ruthless to those she considers threats. As she begins to gather influence to herself, both those aspects grow in tandem, as does her ambition.

The characters almost never interact, with only a single (but important) meeting between two of them. It seems as if the majority of that will be saved for future installments which I will be eagerly awaiting based on this. Having said that, it does connect to one of my few problems with the book. The chapters aren’t necessarily distributed evenly, focusing more on completing one story before switching. While I can understand the reasoning, more than once I did find myself wanting to get back to one of the other characters. But that’s only a minor quibble compared to the riches Kings of Paradise offers.

1 person found this helpful

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A new and stirring perspective

This is my second time experiencing this book; I read it earlier this year, and am re-familiarizing myself with the story before the sequel comes out. I haven’t listened to that many audiobooks, but wanted to give this a try.

Turns out that Ralph Lister is a legendary narrator for good reason. What really stood out to me is how much depth and nuance he could instill in his voice to bring life to the characters I already knew in my head. What’s even more interesting is how different a tone Ralph brings to each character in comparison to how I thought of them the first time around. It gave me an entirely new perspective and appreciation for this story, which is one of my favorite self-published stories of al time.

Nell builds complex characters like few others can, and Lister breathes souls into them and brings them to life. It’s a rare combination from two gifted artists and I hope they pair up again for the sequels.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Peter Gee
  • 01-19-19

Great epic fantasy

l thought this was brilliant. I've not been keen on huge sprawling multi-POV books for a while, but these characters were fantastic, and the separate stories were all exciting and kept me hooked throughout. It is very dark, which I am a fan of, and you get a taste of that right from the start to set the tone. Good performance on audio.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Grant
  • 12-14-18

First Grimdark Experience and it was Fantastic

I found myself compelled by both of the main characters,seeing them come of age. One in a harsh land forced to fight for his survival and one from a more privileged position of a 4th prince. I did get somewhat lost when some years were read out and the characters seemed to age quickly, but I put that down to reading this on my work journey and only have 1 hour a day.

Overall the story twists and turns and left me wanting to know what was going to happen next in both their stories. I believe that just one main character would have been a great book but having two to follow makes it even better. I can't wait for the next audio book and to continue the story and see where these characters take us.

The audible narrator was Fantastic, he brought all of the characters to life and made it easy to distinguish between everyone.

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  • Katherine Fulcher
  • 02-17-19

Listened to the end

I am not quite sure how to review this book. Apart from the few short, weird, wholly out of place sex scenes, there was nothing offensive about it, but nor is there anything spectacular about it either. I hate to give a bad review when someone has taken their time to write such an extensive book, but I found the first half of the book to be dull, with the plot plodding away with numbing regularity and predictability. All of the characters bar one hold little interest - they have no depth to them at all, which is so frustrating as they could all be really interesting. For example, there is a boy with a photographic memory that leads all the way back to (and including) his birth - you would have thought that this would have an immense impact on his psyche, and how he sees and interacts with the wold, but it's only effect seems to be that he can read and write. The only character that saves the book is Kale. He is a really well-developed character, and has the lion's share of interesting plot. I listened to the end, but probably won't get the next one.