King Maker — A Dark Arthurian Retelling

King MakerIt seems like everyone is re-imagining classical legends these days, from Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters to  Disney’s Cinderella. It’s no surprise that the Arthurian legends get such a treatment as well, but it is quite refreshing to see such a dark and urban spin put on them by author Maurice Broaddus in the first book in his Knights of Breton Court series, King Maker.

The novel begins with the fall of Luther, a street hustler ruling over the inner streets of Indianapolis. A determined and ambitious man, Luther is one not to be trifled with. However, after “sending a message” to his rival Green, he lays eyes upon a captivating woman of indistinct heritage. Momentarily forgetting the mother of his child, King, he soon heads for her house to visit. She reminds him that she can’t live the life he lives, and he promises to redeem himself so that they can be together and bring their baby up properly. However, after he leaves her, he rediscovers the strange Asiatic woman. His drive to possess the woman outweighs his desire and edge to rule the streets or follow his own promise of redemption, and after he hooks up with her briefly, Luther is gunned down. The mysterious woman, pregnant with Luther’s child, seems to be preparing to war against Luther’s other progeny, King.

Fast forward about twenty years. Merle, a crazy homeless man who had befriended Luther long before, becomes a companion to King. King, a strange juxtaposition of stupidity and wisdom, is told by the homeless crazy man that he needs to reclaim his destiny. Unsure by what he means, King begins to follow the path that can help him save Breton Court — the ghetto apartment complex he resides in — from both the streets and other dark things that seek to destroy his world.

Part of the allure of this book is piecing together the Arthurian legends with Broaddus’ reimagining of it. Green, the street hustler responsible for Luther’s murder, is fairly easy to work out who he is. Others, like the Samoan siblings who come to Breton Court to kill Arthur, is a bit harder. Background characters like CashMoney, Lady G, Wayne and Lott Carey round out a terrific ensemble which makes King more human — and more believable. With Merle spouting off bits of wisdom and insanity at the same time, King is set to become the one true king of the streets.

One of the more brilliant things in this book is the author’s ability to bring the streets to the pages. It’s hard for a lot of authors to capture the beauty of running the gamer while the hustlers are unknowingly trapped within the own circle of Hell, but Broaddus does it to perfection. The mean streets of downtown Indianapolis are alive in the pages, with a splendid mixing of urban fantasy and hard, gritty true crime bringing the characters to life.

While the pacing can drag a bit, the plot which drives the book is rock-solid, with enough action, suspense and intrigue to keep the ball rolling. Since it’s also the first book of a trilogy, part of the time is spent introducing the reader to the world, which can slow things down at times. I have high, high hopes for the sequel, King’s Justice.

Any fan of true, gritty crime mixed with urban fantasy will definitely appreciate this book. Be warned, however, as the author holds nothing back in his portrayal of just how bad the streets can be.

Reviewed by Jason

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