Young as he is, Senrid Montredaun-An isn't a child... or even a real king. No, he really can't be, when his foolish, power-hungry, ruthless uncle of a regent lords over Marloven Hess, a country where war culture is reminiscent of the ancient Spartans. Senrid looks about twelve (though actually fifteen)--denied his rightful military training and beaten into obedience on a regular basis--and relies on his brains, wits and aptitude for magic to try and outmaneuver his cruel Uncle Tdanerend.
When Senrid was a young child, his mother was murdered, and his father, though a fair ruler, was not the same after that, almost welcoming the knife in the back by his brother Tdanerend. Senrid grew up being fed the idea that both his parents were cowards--'weak' was the word his uncle called them--and that morality was only a tool to justify the actions of a powerful king. As a result, when he casually stumbles upon the royal castle in tiny, neighbouring Vasande Leror, Leander is perplexed, and slightly unnerved, by Senrid's skewed ideas about right and wrong. Leander, a fellow king, serves as Senrid's foil--though slightly older, Leander's background parallels his, aside from sharing ancestry several centuries back: both are orphans, a tyrant at some point poisoning both their thrones. Yet, Leander's Vasande Leror seems the exact opposite of what Marloven Hess is--a quiet, peaceful country sloppily armed only for self-defense, and certainly not seeking to conquer. Everything about Leander would be what Senrid's uncle would call 'weak', but there is no mistaking the respect and loyalty the Leroran citizens have for him, something Tdanerend never got. Fear and thirst for power perhaps, but never respect.
We learn how this poor boy--emotionally and physically abused, often forgetting to eat or sleep as he tries to stay ahead of his uncle in learning magic or mustering the little training he can get on sneak--wrestles with history's toughest questions. Believing 'white magic' to be slow, cautious and less effective, Senrid educates himself in black magic, a potentially destructive type favoured by Tdanerend and the timeless enemy, Norsunder. I've not read many books where I was kept guessing if Senrid was 'good' or not... or maybe that's another one of those words like 'justice' or 'morality'. I often found myself questioning his motives, scrutinizing his psychology and cheering on his steadfast determination to overthrow his uncle.
Not that the book is all business and no fun--far from it. Not if Kitty, Leander's pain-in-the-neck stepsister, has to say anything about it, or CJ Sherwood, the loudmouthed impersonator of Senrid's cousin to get behind the scenes in nasty Marloven Hess. With plenty of inventive insults, Kitty's knack for finding trouble, a high sense of adventure and a more noble cause, the novel is extremely engaging and at times darkly humourous.
Calling this novel coming-of-age would be a misnomer if one was expecting the usual themes in coming-of-age novels. But with exploring ideas like morality, justice, free will and most of all, kingship, Senrid learns to understand the world around him as well as himself--and if that is the case, then this is 'bildungsroman' in the purest sense of the word.
Sherwood Smith has worked her magic again.
Senrid is about a 15 year old who has been controlled against his uncle, who came to the throne of Marloven Hess by murdering Senrid's parents. Senrid also struggles against his misconceptions about magic, morality, and loyalty. While Senrid is struggling with these difficult topics, he struggles to regain his throne.
The story is also features many other unforgettable characters: Leander, another young king, Kitty, his spoiled little sister, CJ, loudmouthed and courageous who will do almost anything to save her friends.
Overall, this book is a great read and its characters will haunt you several days after you put it down.
Senrid is about a young king whose throne is being subtly stolen from him by his uncle, the Regent, who consistantly beats and publicly humiliates him in the name of "strengthening" and "preparing" him for the kingship. The king-in-name-only, Senrid, is secretly trying to overthrow his uncle and win back the throne. In the beginning of the book, he is very firm in his beliefs of what is right and wrong, but because of his horrible childhood these views are rather pessimistic and self-centered. As he goes out into the world and meets different people, especially the Mearsies-Heili girls, he comes to change his views. He is a very interesting character. The reader is unsure whether he is a bad person or a good person who is misunderstood, which makes the book more fun to read.
This book is filled with action and mystery, with a good bit of magic as well. The characters are well-developed and you find yourself really becoming emotionally involved with each one. (Except Kitty. I find her as annoying as Senrid does.)
The story switches points of view a few times, and my favorite parts were those narrated by CJ, a girl from Mearsies-Heili, a country near Marloven-Hess (Senrid's country) that is as opposite as you can get from it. Her "records" are most entertaining.
Sherwood Smith is one of my favorite authors, second only to Tolkien. Her writing style is reminiscient of Tolkien's and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed The Lord of the Rings. Actually, I would recommend this book to anyone who ever read a fantasy book of any kind and enjoyed it even remotely.
I bought this book having loved Crown Duel and Court Duel. Senrid, however, does not particularly resemble either of these works, though some of the magical tidbits are the same. As said by another reviewer, there are a number of intertwined stories, many of which are not particularly fleshed out. Characters that appear to have a major role in the novel fade in and out of the story at unexpected intervals. For instance, the book starts with Leander and his sister Kitty, and they remain fairly prominent characters until Leander's role diminishes at the end of the novel. Also, Faline and CJ Sherwood, who I came to assume would retain significant roles, dropped out of the story towards the latter half, which was strange and a little dissatisfying.
This is not to say the novel is poorly written (although the paperback edition seems rather cheaply made for being so expensive). Positives are that there are many amusing conversations and random occurrences, although there are times when the plot seems a little disjointed. I perhaps enjoyed Senrid's character the best, for his snide and worldly ways. My biggest complaint is the anti-adult stance and the constant reminder that everyone is a 'kid.' There is nothing wrong with young characters, but to be constantly reminded over and over becomes wearying. Also, for anyone who is hoping for an element of romance between the characters will not find it here.
All and all I found this is an interesting novel, only it turned out to be of a different style than I was expecting.
I found this to be a book that wants to have been separated into several volumes at least. There a many threads of storyline that maybe could have been better suited to individual books.
I know that the author has been writing about this world of hers since child hood but it seems too dense and self-involved storytelling. A better editor would have forced her to maybe spend more time fleshing out and expanding the backstory of all of the characters. It was frustrating to constantly be introduced to characters who seem almost in mid-story of their own plot (might be realistic but very annoying to me).
I could tell there were at least 4 individual books here.