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.