Imagine the legend of King Arthur told in a modern era, and set against a complex gangland turf war as a backdrop. King Maker is the first book in the series The Knights of Breton Court, though in this first installment it spends a great deal of time detailing the decay of the neighborhood created by the warring gang factions.
There are early hints of magic from the start, with the appearance of a nature elemental as well as a homeless guy named Merle prognosticating for Luther White. The story quickly shifts to the present day. Very little of the story follows King James White, son of Luther and heir apparent to the “kingdom,” though he doesn’t yet know it.
Instead, the reader is guided through the various street crews run by rival gang leaders Night and Dred. Neither care much for King, but instead of provoking him directly, the leaders choose to vie for the prime dealing locations in the various neighborhoods.
With Dred’s crew lacking the strength to take on Night, Dred hires a pair of trolls to work as extra muscle. This makes his crew feel inferior, and it inspires them into some reckless and stupid behavior to “look hard,” resulting in an escalating war.
Add to this a fey, a few magi, a dragon, the cops, drive-bys, tainted drugs, and you get a complex tale that moves at a breakneck pace.
The aforementioned knights are slow to react to the war in their hood, so their lives are like various subplots to the core plot of the war itself. This is not the story of how the heroes save the day so much as how the villains destroyed themselves. Which is not to say the Knights don’t get their chance to develop. They do, but these are brief glimpses of their lives in the midst of a war.
This is a solid introduction with a blazing pace, whetting the appetite for future installments. Though it’s a serious book, there are moments of humor that help lighten the mood at just the right times. (“I love her like a big-tittied play cousin at a family reunion.”) The conclusion is satisfying, and it opens up new threads to be pursued in the second book, King’s Justice. I know I’ll be standing in line to pick up that second book, and I give King Maker a full 5 stars.