The Justice of Kings by Richard SwanThe Justice of Kings by Richard Swan
Narrator: Lucy Paterson
Series: Empire of the Wolf #1
Published by Orbit on January 22, 2022
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery, Epic Fantasy, Legal
Length: 13 hrs 46 mins
Pages: 496
Format: Audiobook
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Action, intrigue, and magic collide in this epic fantasy following Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an Emperor's Justice, who is a detective, judge, and executioner all in one—but with rebellion and unrest building, these are dangerous times to be a Justice . . .

The Empire of the Wolf simmers with unrest. Rebels, heretics, and powerful patricians all challenge the power of the Imperial throne. Only the Order of Justices stands in the way of chaos. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is the most feared Justice of all, upholding the law by way of his sharp mind, arcane powers, and skill as a swordsman. At his side stands Helena Sedanka, his talented protégé, orphaned by the wars that forged the Empire. When the pair investigates the murder of a provincial aristocrat, they unearth a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of Imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt and Helena must make a choice: Will they abandon the laws they’ve sworn to uphold, in order to protect the Empire?

The Justice of Kings is a compelling mix of fantasy, mystery and legal thriller. The novel follows Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an itinerant Justice of the Empire of the Wolf. His job, and life’s purpose, is to fairly uphold the empire’s laws and mete out justice as appropriate. He is accompanied by his taskman and friend, former soldier Dubine Bressinger, and his clerk, Helena Sedanka, a 19 year old woman who was essentially rescued by Vonvalt from a life on the streets. The three travel to Galen’s Vale where Vonvalt takes on an investigation into the murder of a noblewoman, but the case has Empire-wide ramifications.

The story  is told through the first-person perspective of Helena. We’re hearing, since I listened to the audiobook, Helena’s recounting of the past, which worked well. It showed us Vonvalt’s actions and his reasoning as he discusses things with Helena, but also lets us know that he’s not infallible, that Helena can’t always agree with him. Vonvalt protects the rule of law that applies equally to all, but also feels his duty to the empire as a whole and to his order of justices. The dynamics between the three are interesting; they clearly care about each other but they each have their own backstories that affect how they see the world.

It’s a fairly typical fantasy world without a lot magic. Vonvalt has a couple of powers that assist in his investigations, but they don’t overwhelm the plot. A couple of other characters have powers that are demonstrated in passing, but may become more important as the trilogy progresses. What we do have is a lot of ruminating on the role of justice, of laws, and of power. We also have plenty of tension and danger for our trio.

Honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed The Justice of the Kings. It’s a bit darker than the fantasy I usually read, but I loved how all the parts fit together so well. I’m interested in seeing what happens next.

About Richard Swan

Richard was born in North Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. He spent most of his early life on Royal Air Force bases in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and attended St Peter’s School in York as a boarder. He studied law at the University of Manchester, and spent most of the following ten years as a lawyer specialising in multi-million pound commercial disputes.

Between 2015 and 2018, Richard self-published THE ART OF WAR trilogy, a sequence of epic military space operas, as well as a number of prequels, novellas and short stories.

Richard’s traditionally-published debut fantasy trilogy, THE EMPIRE OF THE WOLF, sold to Orbit Books in a pre-empt in August 2020, for a six-figure sum. The first instalment, THE JUSTICE OF KINGS, was released in February 2022, with the second volume, THE TYRANNY OF FAITH released in February 2023. The final volume, THE TRIALS OF EMPIRE, was released in February 2024. He has also sold short stories to Grimdark Magazine and Black Library.

Richard currently lives with his wife and two small boys in Sydney, Australia.

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