ARC Review: “Legacy of Kings” by Eleanor Herman

ARC Review: “Legacy of Kings” by Eleanor HermanLegacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman
Series: Blood of Gods and Royals #1
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Harlequin Teen on August 25th, 2015
Format: eARC
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Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

I received access to this galley for free from Paper Lantern Lit’s Trendsetter program through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


I must admit, when I saw everyone across the blogosphere getting excited for Legacy of Kings, I saw the appeal but couldn’t really share the excitement. I’m a tad ambivalent when it comes to Historical Fiction — I don’t really seek it out, but every once in a while a synopsis will catch my interest, though the book will usually go to the bottom of my TBR pile. Legacy of Kings also has fantasy elements, but it reads primarily like historical fiction.

I’m gonna be honest here — Legacy of Kings wasn’t really my cup of tea. While it undoubtedly has things going for it, like the plot and world building, I felt that it had some major flaws that prevented me from really getting into it for the most part.

Legacy of Kings promises a lot on the historical side of things, and it definitely delivered it. Somehow I never remember learning anything in great detail about Alexander the Great in history class besides his empire — but evidently, I was missing a lot. Herman takes some historical details about Alexander’s youth — like his best friend (Hephaestion), his royal parents, and his betrothed (Zofia) — and brings his story to life. The world building is quite sound, and really transports the reader to Ancient Greece and Persia. So many details throughout the book show that Herman really did her research, from the ancient Greek clothing and armor to the luxurious Persian perfumes and oils.

As for the story itself? I have so many different feelings about it, they hardly even make sense to me. 

For reference, the story is told from about 7 different POVs: Kat, a peasant girl with secrets; Jacob, her foster brother who is in love with her and seeks to prove himself; Alex, heir to the throne and quite insightful, yet frustrated by his lack of power; Heph, Alex’s loyal and proud best friend; Cyn, Alex’s half sister who rejects her destiny and strives for more; Olympias, the “evil” queen and Alex’s mother; and Zofia, who is engaged to Alex but flees her palace to try and be with the man she really loves.

Whew. And that was just a bare-bones description.

When I step back and think of the story that was told, I’m amazed. That Herman manages to weave so many stories into one is pretty incredible. In some senses, the world really comes to life because we hear from so many different perspectives and have so many pieces of the story. You just get to know so much.

Yet the book’s structure overall just didn’t work for me. Immediately upon starting the book, I noticed that it was written in third person, present tense. Noting the tense and narration style at the beginning of a book is not something I almost ever do consciously. Yet it was so completely jarring for some reason that most of the time I never felt truly immersed in the book. It was always “Kat does this, Alex does that, Heph is over here doing this”… It was weird. I felt very much outside of the book while reading it, and that is not how I want to feel when reading.        

The strange narrative style, combined with having so many POVs, really made the characters fall flat for me. Not only did I never really feel like I was there with the character when I was reading, but the POVs were also switching pretty frequently, especially in the beginning. I never really felt emotionally invested in the characters or their relationships. Characters can make or break a book for me, and in this book they definitely didn’t do it for me.

I guess if I didn’t feel for the characters, it should only follow that I wasn’t really into the romances. But it was more than that — the romances kind of felt like a mess to me. The “main” romance between Kat and Jacob starts in the very first pages with their first kiss, so I felt like I never really got to see the romance develop. Their romance feels like it should be quite central to the story, but it feels a lot like a mere plot device and is never really given enough focus. Meanwhile, there were multiple hints of romance at other points in the book that felt unnecessary and out of place. It felt like a love triangle formed out of nowhere, for no good reason. I wasn’t really shipping anyone together, and it all felt pretty jumbled. 

There were some bright spots to the multiple POVs — like getting to read from the POVs of the “villains.” Most books, you never really get to know what the supposed “enemy” is up to, yet here we get peeks that give us their motives and snippets of their actions. Storyline-wise, my favorite POVs were Zofia and Kat: Zo because I loved the Persian setting and her runaway plot line, and Kat because she was the most relatable and the core of the magical elements in the book that make Legacy of Kings more than just historical fiction.

So it’s kind of hard to really say how I feel about the book overall. I think that readers who love historical fiction will just about devour the book, because getting a peek into a reimagined history of Alexander the Great’s youth is just to good to pass up. But for me, it was hard to get past the narration style, and I was pretty disappointed in the romances and the fact that I didn’t feel anything for the characters. The pacing is also on the slower side, and while it was fascinating to see all the pieces of the POVs come together at the end, I had mostly already guessed the big reveal.


A fascinating look at a reimagined history, but I was disappointed by the way the story was told, and was let down by the characters and their relationships.

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Comments

  • I think I’m leaning towards the historical fiction part rather than the kind of YA part. I was also jarred by the kiss and the sudden romance that popped out of nowhere from the beginning (I only read an excerpt), but I kind of let it slide. I like the thought of romance being kind of in the background than the forefront, but the thought of having it shoved into the story doesn’t sit well with me either. I’ll have to wait for the book, but I’m still excited.
    Alexa @ Books and Cosplay! recently posted…First Thoughts #1My Profile

    • If you’re really excited for the history part, then I think you’ll be quite satisfied 🙂 If only I could say that Kat and Jacob’s sudden romance was the worst romance part in the book though… strange things went on with some of the romances later on.

  • This is what happens when there is too many POVS… the book ends up not polishing any character beyond the superficiality. When you put the spotlight on too many characters, nobody gets to shine and nobody gets to have the depth they deserve. Multiple POVs can work, but it’s tricky and the switching and stuff. And I agtee with you with the present tense third person thingy… I started this book a month but the tense and the writing left me quite disoriented and disinterested. It just doesn’t immediately grab you, I think? I feel like Ink and Bone (alternate history fantasy, third person past tense, solo POV) did it better. I’ll still try this one but it’s one out of a feeling of “I have to because I requested it”.
    Faye la Patata recently posted…Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba BrayMy Profile

    • Yes, yes, exactly! We don’t get to really know any of the characters, and as another blogger mentioned in her review, the multiple POVs actually seems to slow the story down even, and that it probably would’ve been nice to stick to Kat and Alex (maybe Zo, too). And the writing is definitely disorienting, I think that I just couldn’t focus on it because it was so strange so I wasn’t absorbed in the story. I really only finished the book out of obligation, as the beginning was pretty slow. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • WHoa, 7 POVs?! That is a LOT. I have heard a lot of mixed reviews on this one, BUT since I was most excited for the historical part, I am holding out hope that it may still work for me? I don’t even mind a slower plot, but the fact that you didn’t connect to the characters OR the romance is troubling. Meh, I will still give it a try, but luckily I can read it at my own leisure- and DNF if I need to, though I am hoping I don’t have to. This review is incredible, so thorough! You answered ALL my questions, so thanks!! 😀

    • It IS a lot! They don’t switch a regular intervals, but still. I tried to be merciful in my review because while I didn’t care much for the book, I knew that it wasn’t terrible and that others might be really into it. Even I was able to appreciate/enjoy the historical aspect, and maybe I would’ve liked it a bit more if it was a standalone (the thought of reading the rest of the series is pretty unappealing). Usually if I don’t love the characters I can at least enjoy the romance, but even that was quite the “miss” for me here. But being able to wield the power of the DNF can change the reading experience so much, so I would say go for it! Glad I covered everything you were wondering about, usually I just can’t manage to begin in my word count anyway, haha XP

  • Boo for not really connecting/feeling anything for the characters. That always gets in the way of story enjoyment :/ And there’s so many characters in this it sounds like! It’s also a shame about the romance being messy. BUT being as big of a fan of historical and fantasy fiction as I am, I still need to check this out. I like the idea of getting snippets from the villain POVs!!

    • Yeah, it’s tough wen the characters and romance aren’t great 🙁 But if you like a reimagined, fantastical look at the past, then you definitely still have check this one out! The villain POVs were unique for sure.

  • I thought that the description was confusing, but after reading your review it sounds that is carried into the story as well. 7 POVs?! Who needs that many. Also the Third person, present tense things would probably drive me crazy. Which is annoying because this sounds like it must have an amazing world and I am trying to get into Historical fiction a bit more and hoped that I was just being a bit dumb when I read the description. But hmmm, I’m conflicted. Maybe I will get it from the library instead!
    Hannah @ Broc’s Bookcase recently posted…Monthly Review – JulyMy Profile

    • I think people who love historical fiction will still like this one, but if you’re just trying to get into the genre I’d be careful because this one has the potential to turn you off of it! Maybe not because of the historical side (which was pretty awesome), but definitely because of everything else (the constant POV switching, and the WEIRD TENSE). Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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