Book Review - KINGSHOLD by D.P. Woolliscroft

(Title: Kingshold / Author: D.P. Woolliscroft / Publisher: Self-Published / Publication Date: April 30, 2018)

KINGSHOLD is the debut offering from self-published author DP Woolliscroft and the first entry in his Wildfire Cycle.  Woolliscroft hails from Derby, England and now resides in Princeton, New Jersey (a hop, skip, and jump from my current city of residence by the way).  But I digress.....My attention was drawn to this author when I began following him on Twitter and kept seeing all of the discussion regarding his first book just released this past April.  

I was even more intrigued when it was recently announced that KINGSHOLD would be one of 300 entries in Mark Lawrence's highly regarded Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off contest for 2018.  So when offered a chance to receive a review copy by the author himself, I must say that I was very excited to get a chance to read it and write a review before the contest kicked off in earnest.  Upon reading the brief description of the plot, I was even more eager to begin the story as it seemed to be the type of Fantasy book that I usually love immersing myself in.  So I started reading this 500 page tome exactly one week ago and finished late last night.  If the speed with which I flew through the pages is any indication, I think you can make a pretty accurate guess as to how I felt about this book.  And so now a little bit more about KINGSHOLD....

KINGSHOLD is a place embroiled in treachery and upheaval.  The King and Queen were just recently discovered murdered under a cloud of mystery.  The opening paragraphs describe a court in chaos as the different factions and leaders struggle to understand what just took place and who might be responsible.  It is soon revealed that the ancient wizard Jyuth was the one who committed the regicide, but for what reasons is still unclear.  The only thing that is clear is that the monarchy has been abruptly abolished in one night and there must now be new elections to select a Lord Protector of KINGSHOLD who will rule the new government.  

Jyuth, King-maker and ever the opportunist, sees a chance to influence the selection while making a bit of coin for himself in the process due to the fact that the only way someone can put vote their choice is by making a substantial monetary donation.  And so the race to become Lord Protector begins with the back-stabbing and double-dealing getting incredibly hot and heavy.  Mareth is a bard of middling renown who is suddenly thrust into one of the biggest eras of chaos that KINGSHOLD has ever seen in its long history.  Mareth is pretty much a drunk and an underachiever, what you would call a slacker by today's standards.  Being a bard, this is his greatest chance to erase all of that and place his selection in the leadership chair should he be able to sing the story that will unite everyone behind his choice.  Mareth believes that fame is just around the corner and all of the spoils and drinking money that go along with it.  

Meanwhile, the reason for the King and Queen's assassination is revealed to be because they were engaged in a vile slave trade which was negatively impacting the reputation and governing of KINGSHOLD and which the wizard Jyuth simply could not abide any longer.  As the candidates come forward to vie for the new position of Lord Protector, the political maneuvering begins to get a bit out of control and bribing, killing, and violent rioting become the order of the day.  Suddenly the future of KINGSHOLD may not be at all certain and whether or not there can be an orderly transition at all is very much in doubt.  There are also those outside the confines of KINGSHOLD who see the civil unrest and instability as a very real chance to finally tear down the once mighty kingdom and finally give power to those unfortunate and poverty-stricken who reside just outside its walls.  

Will the wizard Jyuth achieve his ultimate goal to raise a Lord Protector to the throne and restore stability to KINGSHOLD or will chaos and anarchy ultimately reign supreme, plunging the kingdom into a much different era where no one is positive of the eventual outcome?  Nothing is as it seems and motivations shift with the wind in this complex yet utterly readable medieval Epic Fantasy by DP Woolliscroft.

Every once in a great while a book just comes out of left field and completely floors me.  KINGSHOLD is one of those very books.  I have to say that the quality of self-published books, especially in the Fantasy genre, has risen to unseen heights recently.  Credit established Fantasy author Mark Lawrence for giving voice and visibility to those authors who ten or even five years ago would have never been given a chance of reaching such a large audience.  It would have been a real crime had KINGSHOLD never been afforded the opportunity to reach the masses because it is simply a wonderful and engaging Fantasy read.  And it surprised the hell out of me with how it grabbed my attention from the first page and then demanded that I keep reading and reading and reading.  

One of the many wonderful aspects of this book in my opinion is the way the main character is written.   I kept going back and forth in my head as to whether or not I believed Jyuth was a hero or a villain.  He is portrayed in such a way that you aren't entirely sure whether he has the best interests of KINGSHOLD truly at heart or whether he is simply a selfish lout who is only concerned with furthering his own agenda.  The picture does become clearer as you get further into the book, but it was a masterful job of keeping the reader guessing and not creating the usual cookie-cutter characters that most Fantasy books are teeming with these days.  

I would also classify this as Political Fantasy, in that the majority of the plot deals with the election of the new Lord Protector and the strategic positioning of all of the candidates and their backers.  That being said, I was never bored by this and there is quite enough action to satisfy those who crave that as well.  Another element that was interesting was the use of modern day slang and profanity set against a very Medieval Fantasy period.  The contrast was a unique approach and I thought that it lent a gritty realism to what could have been a very stale "same old Fantasy" story.  There are so many things that I loved about KINGSHOLD and I really didn't want it to end.  In fact, I may eventually go back and read it again very soon if I have some time because it was that entertaining a story.  

I really hope that both KINGSHOLD and author DP Woolliscroft advance to the finals in the SPFBO challenge.  This is a book that deserves to be recognized as not only one of the best self-published books of the year, but also as one of the best Fantasy books of 2018 period.  It could very well win the whole thing when all is said and done.  All due accolades to DP Woolliscroft, I eagerly anticipate the next installment in the Wildfire Cycle.  Oh, and please write faster!

(My Rating: 9.5/10)


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