Everything Star Wars Should Be

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier

The Daytime Renegade continues his series of insightful Soul Cycle reviews with his take on the third volume of my space opera/horror cycle, The Secret Kings:
Brian Niemeier sure knows how to start a story off with a bang.
The third installment of his Soul Cycle trilogy (as of now) brings back one of Book I's best characters: Teg Cross! And he's as badass as ever.
What begins as a mission for survivors of the galaxy-shattering cataclysm turns into a battle against the forces of the Void intent on remaking the world in its image.
If you watched Star Wars and thought, "Not enough magic or monsters"; if you're into horror and ask yourself, "Where are the spaceships?"; and or you're into Dune and keep wondering "Where are all the good books?", then the Soul Cycle series is right in your wheelhouse.
I can also appreciate a setting-specific pun :)

Back to Alex:
Teg isn't the only returning character from the first book here, and allies and enemies from Book II also feature prominently. And of course, new friends and foes appear and make their impact felt. To say anymore would spoil things, but just let's say that the interaction between these disparate personalities is great.
It also helps that Brian can write, keeping the action fast-paced, keeping the danger right at the protagonists' heels, and giving few respites from the (almost exhausting) breakneck pace.
Oh, and we get to see more cool planets.
Alex follows up with his breakdown of what makes SK work, starting with the relationships between the book's characters.
These interactions feel natural, and friendships and friction created when they all meet is completely in-character; nothing seems out of place. Brian gives the sense that, were these characters real and sitting in a room together, this is how they would act.
The newcomers, like Izlaril, Lykaon, Gein, Anris, the Anomians, and Celwen are welcome additions to the cast.
And the conflict! Not always armed hostility, but even the good guys don't always get along.
In screenwriting, there's a principle that also applies to novels, that every scene needs conflict, or at least a goal. You can broadly call this a reason for existing: Does it further the story? Does it reveal something about a character? Could you cut it out and lose nothing of the story?
This is where I think Brian excels. When I wrote in my
Souldancer review that his writing was "economical," this is what I mean: No wasted words, no overly florid language, and each scene has a point. This tension among the characters helps lend every scene both heft and a purpose.
Good stuff.
There's more entertaining and enriching analysis here. Of course, I highly recommend reading the whole review.

Alex's parting words are too awesome not to share here:
All told, The Secret Kings is a triumph. Read the Soul Cycle, and get ready for the fourth installment, previewed at the end of The Secret Kings, which Brian is working on as we speak. The series starts off at, let's say, an 8-out-of-10 and then by Book II cranks things up to 11.
It's fun, it's exciting, and it's got a bit of everything: Gunplay and sword-fights coexist with magic and monsters; there are spaceships, telepaths, other dimensions and strange god and demons. And there's romance! Heroism! All that good stuff.
Final Verdict: Everything Star Wars should be trying to do, but isn't.

Get The Secret Kings now. And look for Soul Cycle Book IV, The Ophian Rising later this year.


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