Tyrant’s Throne: A near-perfect close to a great series

Reposting to include Marion’s new review.

Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de CastellTyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de CastellTyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell

De Castell turned to Kest. “How would you rate our chances?”

Kest rifled through the manuscript. “We’ll get four and five-star reviews and show up on a dozen Best of the Year lists, after which you’ll get one, no two, major nominations. People will be very sad it’s over and will repeatedly beg you for more. Falcio will appear on five or six ‘Best Characters in a Series’ lists, which won’t do much for his humility, I hate to say.”

“I’ll have you know I have the best humility of anyone.”

“My point exactly. I’ll get a Top 10 mention on a list of Best Swordsperson in a fantasy work, but poor Brasti will almost certainly be forgotten, unless someone makes a list of ‘Characters Who You Only Remember as ‘That Other Guy.’”

Brasti glanced up from polishing his bow.

Falcio raised a finger before Brasti could speak. “Please tell me that isn’t a euphemism. I really—”

De Castell interrupted. “Don’t break perspective, Falcio. And yes, we all hope it isn’t a euphemism.”

Brasti looked at his polishing cloth. “Nah, it’s just a mix of spit and ale and some other stuff I’m gonna leave a mystery just to drive Falcio crazy. Anyway, Kest is right. I will be recalled as ‘That Other Guy.’ As in that other guy who killed a god and kept pulling the silly men with little pointy sticks, who did not kill any gods ever, out of certain death.”

Certain is a bit of an overstatement; I always had a plan.”

Kest smiled at Brasti. “Falcio had a plan.”

“So then, Absolutely certain death?” Brasti asked Kest.

“Definitely,” Kest answered.

“I think you two are confusing certain with near-certain. See, if we weren’t in positions of near-certain death, then we couldn’t be lauded for our daring feats of valor. ‘Maybe has a chance of dying’ just doesn’t cut it.”

Brasti snorted. “Lauded, he says. Is that what you call it when you’re jailed—”

“Several times,” Kest interrupted.

The Greatcoats (4 Book Series) Kindle Edition by de Castell, Sebastien

THE GREATCOATS

“Beaten.”

“Multiple times.”

“Marched up a mountain.”

“To be both jailed and beaten.”

“Labeled a traitor.”

“By official royal seal.”

“And are forced to face an army that has overwhelming numbers.”

“Plus better fighters and weapons.”

Falcio covered a yawn. “You two done?”

“Did I miss anything?” Brasti asked Kest.

“You left out being betrayed.”

“I thought about putting it in there, but everyone kept shifting sides so often I still haven’t figured out if we ever actually were betrayed or not.”

“How’d you know who to aim your arrows at then?”

“I just looked to see who was most annoyed by Falcio’s speeches.”

“That’s a pretty fine distinction to make.”

“Nah, the ones on our side mostly looked sleepy.”

Falcio turned to De Castell. “See what you saddled me with?”

The author shrugged. “I gave you what you needed.”

“Shoulda thrown in more of a sense of self-preservation while you were at it,” Brasti said. “Especially when it meant preserving us too.”

“A bit more pragmatism wouldn’t have hurt,” Kest added.

“An awareness of when he’s beaten.”

“A little less idealism.”

“A lot more knowledge of women.”

“A lot more knowledge of women.”

“I just said that,” Basti objected.

“He needed to hear it twice.”

“Oh. True.”

Falcio looked with a beseeching eye to De Castell. “Can’t you do anything?”

De Castell looked at him with a mix of frustration and compassion. “Oh Falcio, what more would you want? I gave you insurmountable odds. The fate of your country and loved ones at stake. Chance upon chance to raise the downtrodden, protect the oppressed, and redeem the fallen.”

“Is he talking about us?” Basti whispered to Kest.

“Shhh,” Kest said, waving him off.

De Castell went on as if he hadn’t heard. “I gave you a foe unlike any other you’ve faced, one all the more dangerous for the ways in which he was just like you. I brought old characters back on stage. Gave you the chance to set right the ways in which your greatest sorrow has been made use of. I gave you wrenching choices: who to save, who to sacrifice, vengeance versus peace, and most cutting of all, I made you choose between the two things you had always thought entwined as one: Justice and Law.”

“That’s all a bit obtuse for me,” Basti said.

“You mean abstruse,” Kest told him. “And be quiet, I’m listening.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“I gave you answers to questions raised all the way in Book One. I gave you duels and battles, jailbreaks and rescues, twists and turns, brilliant resolutions and heart-breaking closes.”

Brasti nudged Kest in the ribs. “Bit full of himself, ain’t he? No wonder he and Falcio get along so well.”

“Falcio, I gave you grief and joy and despair and hope and sorrow and love and loss and friendship. I gave you life. And of course, I gave you a chance, several chances, to ‘attempt something rather daring and heroic.’”

“Don’t forget ‘doomed to fail,’” Brasti chimed in.

“Because ‘preposterous heroics are the only things we’ve ever been good at,’” Kest added.

“I even gave you, Falcio,” De Castell continued, “something too many fantasy authors don’t give their favorite characters.”

Brasti winced. “Did he just call Falcio his favorite? We’ll never hear the end of that.”

“What’s that,” Falcio asked. “A jaunty attitude? A rugged handsomeness?”

“An ending,” De Castell said.

“Ahh. Yes.” Falcio smiled, a genuine smile relieved of all tension or forced cheer. “There is that.”

“Wait. What?” Brasti said. “We’re done?”

“No, Brasti,” De Castell answered, looking at them all. “But you are free. Free to do what you’d please, now.”

“But,” Brasti began.

“Everyone shush now,” Falcio said. “I’m about to be impressive.”

Sebastien de Castell

~Bill Capossere


Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de CastellTyrant’s Throne ably wraps up Sebastien de Castell’s four-book saga of the Greatcoats, while leaving himself plenty of room to write more books about our dueling magistrate any time he wants. Several familiar faces, including a villainous one, return, expectations get upended and loyalties are sorely tested.

The opening of Tyrant’s Throne is very important: aboard a wedding barge, an unwilling bride is about to be wed to a warlord, with only, it seems, an amateur Greatcoat to save her. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, nothing is quite what it seems here. The long scene, which runs over three of de Castell’s famously short chapters, sets the tone for the entire book in many ways.

Falcio, Brasti and Kest intervene in the wedding situation, as expected. Their next assignment brings them both news that intrigues, and some that Falcio has been dreading; a former Greatcoat returns to say that Avares, the nation of warlords to the north is preparing to invade, and that they are being helped by the devious villain Trin.

Falcio knows he must head north, but he does not want to leave his adopted daughter Valiana, or Aline, the king’s daughter and heir, who, at twelve, is unprepared to take the throne. Still, he knows his duty, and Morn, the returned Greatcoat, has a lot of information to share.

On their way to Avares the three loyalists see, over and over, that things in their country are getting worse, not better. When they reach Avares, they soon find that Trin is not helping the warlords. She is a prisoner. And with her is a man who is Falcio’s biggest worry, perhaps even his worst nightmare. Or at least that’s what he thinks at the time. Later in the book, he lives out his real worst nightmare, and so do we.

Throughout the GREATCOATS series, Falcio has clung to his notions of justice and honor; to the Law above all else, even when most of the people around him have told him his ideas are weak and outdated. Even the evidence of his own eyes seems to show him that the Law is not effective. It isn’t until he faces Trin and her companion again that we see Falcio truly tempted, and at least half of Tyrant’s Throne is Falcio reconsidering the values he has dedicated his life to.

Not that that’s the only thing going on. There are duels. There are chase scenes, double-crosses, ambushes and duels. There are arguments with close friends. There is the loss of a beloved character. There are sneak attacks. Did I mention there are duels? There are tricksters with friendly faces and adversaries with honor. There are songs. And near the end of this very long book, Falcio comes up with one of the best ways ever to win a battle with an army that is out-soldiered about ten-to-one, using a song.

I can’t tell if the book is a little too long, or whether it is only the short chapters that create a sense of windedness. It never drags, and the plot is complex enough, with twists and turns still, to be the kind of book you decide you’re going to set down, and then realize another hour has gone by and you haven’t. There are deaths in this book, but not one of them is wasted. The ending is plausible and emotionally satisfying. As a bonus, a being from the first book, the greathorse Monster, returns for a cameo.

I will go with “satisfying” as my description for the whole GREATCOATS series, and Tyrant’s Throne in particular. The series never lost the flavor of Dumas’ Musketeers books and that’s a positive. The banter never flagged, and the deaths counted for something. De Castell — and Falcio — is quite clear that kings and queens are mortal, just as venial and flawed as anyone, and that corruption can exist anywhere there is political power.

The final few pages are bittersweet and mournful, sadness sprinkled with laughter and a sense of completion. It’s a suitable ending, fit for a king’s dueling magistrate.

~Marion Deeds

Publication date: June 6, 2017. After years of struggle and sacrifice, Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats, is on the brink of fulfilling his dead king’s dream: Aline, the king’s daughter, is about to take the throne and restore the rule of law once and for all. But for the Greatcoats, nothing is ever that simple. In the neighboring country of Avares, an enigmatic new warlord is uniting the barbarian armies that have long plagued Tristia’s borders–and even worse, he is rumored to have a new ally: Trin, who’s twice tried to kill Aline to claim the throne of Tristia for herself. With the armies of Avares at her back, led by a bloodthirsty warrior, she’ll be unstoppable. Falcio, Kest, and Brasti race north to stop her, but in those cold and treacherous climes they discover something altogether different, and far more dangerous: a new player is planning to take the throne of Tristia, and with a sense of dread the three friends realize that the Greatcoats, for all their skill, may not be able to stop him. As the nobles of Tristia and even the Greatcoats themselves fight over who should rule, the Warlord of Avares threatens to invade. With so many powerful contenders vying for power, it will fall to Falcio to render the one verdict he cannot bring himself to utter, much less enforce. Should he help crown the young woman he vowed to put on the throne, or uphold the laws he swore to serve?

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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2 comments

  1. This was so much fun! It’s so nice to see your playwright self, and a good review as well.

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