Twelve Kings in Sharakhai

21 CDs. 26 hrs. Brilliance. 2015. ISBN 9781480527140. $59.97. 2 MP3-CDs. F
Ceda is a young gladiator who fights in Sharakhai, a metropolis in the middle of a desert ruled by 12 immortal and despotic kings. She's plotting revenge on the kings for the gruesome murder of her mother, but in order to carry out her plan she must untangle the many plots surrounding the kings while worming her way into becoming one of their elite bodyguards. The world Beaulieu (The Flames of Shadam Khoreh) has built is inspired by North Africa but eschews gender norms to the point that full equality is taken for granted and lacks comment. This work has many aspects that fantasy fans clamor for: a nonstandard setting, a female lead, atypical gender norms, and a nonwhite cast of characters, including the protagonist. Unfortunately, it demonstrates the need for great editors. The plot drags in places, which is too bad, because buried here is a great story. Sarah Coomes manages the reading well, including a plethora of specialized vocabulary from North Africa and the Middle East.
VERDICT A great pick for epic fantasy fans wanting something new and different, while others won't be able to get past the many digressions. Recommended for fans of Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.
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