Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Book 4: King Maker (The Knights of Breton Court I)

The gang infested ghetto part worked. The Arthurian retelling did not. Set in the 'hood of Indianapolis (didn't know they had one), Maurice Broaddus crafted a very ambitious work, resetting the Arthurian legend in a drug and gang infested landscape. On the surface, urban fantasy seems perfectbut the inherent limitations of the genre hamper the story quite a bit. We are introduced to a variety of characters, mostly based on different Arthurian characters. Instead of Percival, we get Percy, a simple, kind man caught up in events well beyond his control. Instead of Merlin, there's Merle, a white bum who emerges to advise King. There's Lott instead of Lancelot, a Fedex employee just trying to save enough money. There's Wayne instead of Gawayne, an advocate for the youth of the neighborhood. The best part of King Maker is when the story focuses on the different characters responses and interactions with their neighborhood. Broaddus does a great job of painting despair, hopelessness, anger. But when we get to the fantasy part, wow, it gets weird in a hurry. A couple of moments work, but there's a lot of nonsense towards the end and the climax just isn't interesting. The casting of King Arthur as King and his "knights" as a bunch of holier than thou types is less than satisfying. The characters that are interesting are the bad guys. King, Lott, Wayne, and Merle come across as a bunch of douchebags. I would have preferred a bit more complexity to them. Baylon, a reluctant gang banger who struggles to get the street respect that he desperately wants, emerges as a vibrant character.
Overall, there are some really interesting yet undeveloped elements, but the fantasy elements are so, well, weird. The writing is mostly on par with what you'd expect from Urban Fantasy, but there are glimpses of being more than the genre. It just never manages to escape itself.
Dresden O Meter:
Plot: 5. I'm not sure what it was all about. If I wasn't passingly familiar with King Arthur, I think I would have been completely lost.
Central Character: 5. No real central character, but the good guys weren't very interesting.
Fantasy Hook: 3. I still don't really get it.
Supernatural: 3. Seemed forced rather than organic.
Characters interaction: 8. The actual responses to the world were very real, dirty, and scary.

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