In his first published work since finishing his Thomas Covenant series, Stephen R. Donaldson delivers two all original novellas in The King’s Justice. I’ve long been a fan of this author, stemming all the way back to the late 1970s when I began voraciously reading his The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever. It was well beyond my 8-year-old reading level, but it forced me to try harder and it certainly increased my vocabulary. I loved both of those trilogies and was ecstatic when he decided to revisit the character in 2004; those final books are amazing and well worth the wait. But we are here to talk about two all new stories with which Donaldson has seen fit to grace us! So, good reader, let us get to it!
The first tale is entitled The King’s Justice, just like the book itself. Revolving around a mysterious stranger who goes simply by the moniker Black, our story is full of magic, intrigue, and not a little carnage. Traveling about the newly united kingdoms, Black secretly does the bidding of the King. It is through his deeds that justice is delivered. But Black is more than just a servant, he has been molded and shaped into a vessel of balance; his body has been augmented to accommodate the King’s power. And he’ll need every single bit of that power to stop the treacherous forces that run rampant in the tiny hamlet of Settle’s Crossways.
The second of the stories, The Augur’s Gambit, revolves around a kingdom on the verge of collapse, or implosion at the very least. As luck would have it, the reigning monarch has a hieronomer at her disposal. If you are unsure of the word, fear not, you are not alone; it’s the name of someone who reads the future from the entrails of animals. Dedicated to his queen and her bidding, Mayhew Gordian puts forth a plan that he hopes will cause a cessation to the treachery and deceit that plagues the court of the monarch of Indemnie. Working in conjunction with the princess of the realm, he moves forward to save the land that his auguries have told him is doomed. But even as he seeks to change the future, he sets in motion a need to change things within himself. Only when everything begins to change will the future seem less desolate.
Both of these novellas are spectacular examples of Stephen R. Donaldson’s work. He captures his reader within the first few pages, creating a bond that continues on…even after the story ends. You’ll want to know more of both of our primary characters. Black is elusive and prone to wandering, making him the perfect conduit for the King’s power. What led him to this point, what put him on this path? These are the things I need to know! Just as with Mayhew and his unwavering dedication to his country and queen. He risks much to try to change the inevitable. From whence does this tenacity and zeal come? The author leaves me wanting, maybe even begging, for more.
In the end, you’ll put this book down with hesitation, feeling like there is much left unsaid, undone even. But you’ll see the passion, you’ll feel the love, that Donaldson shows us through his writing. Descriptive, but not obsessively so, the reader bears witness to finely crafted plots and beautifully developed worlds. You’ll receive no finer recommendation from me this year than this: Donaldson’s stories are must-reads. If you have yet to read anything from him, I think you’ll find no finer starting point than this book, The King’s Justice.