Confession time: I'm terrified of reviewing my friends' books.
Actually, just reading my friends' published works gives me a mini heart attack. What if I don't like their book? What if they know I'm reading it and are keeping an eye out for my review? How do I review? Do I give it 5 stars even if, were it written by someone who wasn't my friend, I would've given it less? Is that disingenuous? Insincere? Ethically unacceptable? What if I give it 4 stars? Will my friend hate me? Am I being honest or unsupportive? Can't I be honest and supportive at the same time? Isn't that what friends are for?
Flip side: What if I love their book? What if I can't put into words how much I love their book and my review falls flat? What if my friend reads it and thinks, "Well. I suppose they thought my book was simply subpar. How utterly disappointing." (Because all of my friends sound mustachioed English gentlemen from last century.) What then?
Welcome to the inventive mind of an overthinker.
Fortunately, in the case of my good friend Jim Doran's novel Kingdom Come, this review falls into the latter category.
So, what is Kingdom Come? In the words of the author himself, "Kingdom Come is a new adult, fantasy, sword-and-sorcery novel set in a fairytale world. It's a portal adventure of a young man, Harold, who is transported to a magical land called Kingdom. Harold befriends a group of fellow adventurers while on a quest to reunite five sisters and fulfill a prophecy. Fairy tales from different sources exist together in Kingdom."
(Mount Voyle, a fascinating location in the land of Kingdom. Art by Daniel Johnson.)
I love this book. Really, truly, 5-star love this book, no bias necessary. This is not your average quest-type/portal fantasy. What begins as a predictable adventure quickly converts into a fast-paced, original story with clever twists on fairy tales reaching past their Disney interpretations to the authentic archives of the Brothers Grimm. The characters are the highlight of the book with the plot a close second. It's engrossing, full of fantasy action and lore, but be wary: Kingdom Come packs a surprising emotional punch. A deeply satisfying read on all accounts.
Some of the things that stood out to me:
The first sentence. "My sister never passed up an opportunity to kiss a frog." From that moment, I knew this book was going to hold my attention.
The surprising emotional threads. There are a variety of relationships readers can relate to. Harold's close relationship with his sister — the driving force of the story — is one that especially tugged on my heartstrings and had me invested from the start.
Character growth and development. These are as integral to the story as the plot. You can't have one without the other in Kingdom Come.
Refreshing take on sword-and-sorcery. In dealing with heroes, quests, and prophecies, Kingdom Come's premise has the potential for all the usual cliches of its genre but doesn't live up to these expectations in the slightest.
The five sisters. Somehow, each of them manages to have their own distinctive personality and endearing qualities.
Creative mash-up of plot elements. Zombies and werewolves and toad girls, oh my!
Major nods to Michigan. Not only does Harold, our protagonist, originate from the Mitten, but he runs into another character in Kingdom who may know a thing or two about our great state from personal experience — including the reliability of the Lions! (Their reliability in losing, that is.
Helga. This girl. She is so much more than my favorite character of the book. Helga made it onto my list of favorite tough girl sweethearts of all time! I proudly place her alongside such characters as Story Thieves' Charm Mentum, Skulduggery Pleasant's Valkyrie Cain, and Kim Possible's Shego. A girl who shamelessly assigns herself many titles, I would love to hear her say, "I am Helga the Favored One, chief of Kristiana's favorite characters!"
(The beautiful night sky holds special meaning in the land of Kingdom. Art by Daniel Johnson.)
If Kingdom Come sounds like your kind of book, I have a suggestion to make: start with the short stories. On Jim Doran's site jimdorantales.com, he posts original content related to Kingdom Come, from short stories to artwork, for every month of its publication year, 2018. Before I read the book, I devoured the short stories. They gave me a feel for Jim's writing style and world, and I decided I liked both very much. My personal favorite is "Do Not Save the Princess" starring — you guessed it! — Helga, but each short story introduced me to the characters I would grow to love in the full-length novel. Consider them the "appetizers" to a full-course fantasy feast!
Want to know more about Jim Doran and Kingdom Come? You can check out my Mitten Authors interview with him here!
Jim Doran is a genre writer of fantasy, mystery, and suspense who currently calls southeast Michigan home. Kingdom Come is his first novel. You can read more about Kingdom at www.jimdorantales.com and follow Jim on Twitter at @JDoran711.
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