From the drug gangs of downtown Indianapolis, the one true king will arise. The King Arthur myth gets dramatically retold through the eyes of street hustler King, as he tries to unite the crack dealers, gangbangers and the monsters lurking within them to do the right thing. Broaddus' debut is a stunning, edgy work, genuinely unlike anything you've ever read.
The premise of King Maker is simply awesome, and I wanted to love the book based on that alone. I’m a big fan of the King Arthur mythology, and the idea of such a unique slant on the story had me extremely excited. I found myself bewildered, however, as I worked my way through the book.
I want to deal with the strengths of the novel first. Maurice Broaddus’ writing creates a dangerous and authentic mood. The language is fierce and evokes the gritty realism of life on the streets. When the supernatural elements are introduced, they drift through the novel like smoke, leaving the reader gradually horrified as the end game is reached. Broaddus’ horror background is evident; some of the events in King Maker sent chills down my spine.
With all that said, I didn’t enjoy King Maker, for a number of reasons.
It is a relatively slight novel (the first in a trilogy being published by Angry Robot books), and yet I found it took me almost a week to plough through. Part of this was thanks to the stop-start nature of the plot, and the bouncing around of timelines. I found it extremely easy to put the book down, rarely wanting to read on at the end of a chapter. I became confused at times by the fact that one of the characters was alive when I had read a couple of chapters ago that they had died.
Although the dialogue is very effectively written, it is also hard to understand at times. As a white gal who lives in comfort a million miles away from the types of events being described, I felt like I needed a dictionary. Although I list this as a fault, I do greatly admire Broaddus for delving so well into the psyche of inner city America and not making compromises for the ease of his readers.
The characters are difficult to like, and, due to the nature of the gang warfare, all of them are written in shades of grey. I do like ambiguous characters, but sometimes you just want to root for a hero. Here even King (Broaddus’ version of King Arthur) acts reprehensibly at times.
Lastly, there are some extremely gruesome scenes that I found distasteful to read. They fit the nature of the book, but it should be mentioned that if books received ratings, King Maker would have been stamped an “18.”
Yet I have the sneaking suspicion that other readers will love this book. Sometimes you just don’t “fit” with a book, and find yourself confused by the overwhelming praise other reviewers shower upon it. I have a feeling that, when King Maker is released, many will adore it for the bravery and uniqueness of the writing. I am left comparing the book to a worthy film generating Oscar buzz: something you feel you should watch, but know you won’t enjoy as much as an explosion-ridden summer blockbuster.
In conclusion, although I did not like this book, I firmly believe that readers will have to make up their own minds. For some, King Maker is going to be the best read of 2010.
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