Book Review: Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell

The Greatcoats is one of those rare fantasy sagas that just continues to get better with each instalment – an even more impressive feat when you consider Saint’s Blood was a book I didn’t think could be topped.

In fact, even though I wasn’t consciously aware of it, I suspect I went into Tyrant’s Throne looking to be disappointed. I felt it got off to a slow start, and I convinced myself it was lacking any sort of direction. It was simply not the book I expected to follow the killing of a God. I mean, honestly, how do you follow that up? In fact, chagrined as I am to admit it now, I may even have allowed myself to wonder why Sebastien de Castell dared to sully such an exemplary trilogy by stretching it into an unnecessary quartet.

And then we got to the other side of the mountain, saw what – and, more importantly, who –  awaited us, and I suddenly realized how many loose ends remained, how much of the story had yet to be told, and how desperately I didn’t want it all to end.

If you’ll allow me the Star Wars indulgence for a moment, Knight’s Shadow was really the ‘Empire’ of the  The Greatcoats saga, just as Saint’s Blood was its ‘Jedi’ (minus the Ewoks). So, where does that leave Tyrant’s Throne? Well, I can think of no better way to describe it than as a second helping (or, rather, a second interpretation) of ‘Empire’. It is dark, violent, and tragic, a painful story that seems entirely devoid of hope. For every heroic deed, every valiant act, there is an even larger betrayal looming. Time and time again it goes to the darkest of places, leaving us sure that Falcio and Aline have suffered the worst that the world has to offer, only to discover that there are even deeper, darker holes hiding in the shadows.

That’s not to say this is a depressing book or even a frustrating one. Instead, it is an impossibly engaging piece of storytelling that demands you give everything of yourself, with no promise of a happy ending in return. It is a book that questions everything we know about the Greatcoats, including the Greatcoats themselves. For a series that has already seen Falcio val Mond tormented and tortured beyond the limits of all compassion, we have never seen him as fundamentally broken as we do here. Everything – literally everything – he has ever believed in is called into question. As heroic/tragic character arcs go, I am not sure there’s a better one anywhere in epic fantasy today.

If this is the last we see of Falcio, Kest, Brasti, and the rest, then you couldn’t ask for more than Tyrant’s Throne. I hesitate to use the word ‘perfect’ but this is about as close as epic fantasy gets to that plateau. Character arcs, storytelling, world building, mythology, conflicts, and relationships – it all comes together in a brilliantly satisfying finale of fiction that keeps going right to the very last page.

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