Mike Brooks’ bibliography is nothing short of impressive. The author has left his mark in the worlds of science-fiction, grimdark, and in the grand tapestry of the Warhammer universe.
I’ve long set my sights on reading Brooks’ Keiko series (there’s just something about the mention of smugglers and the past catching up to you that calls to me), but by the great work of Tracy @ Compulsive Readers and the good people of Orbit, I’ve managed to get my hands on The Black Coast first.
At some point during my first foray into Brooks’ work, something stood out to me: a story like this can’t help but make you realize how relentlessly epic fantasy adapts to the truths and concerns of the contemporary world.
And although I was itching to read this book for the concept of war dragons and daemonic evil on the rise (yes, I’m shallow like that. I LIKE MY DRAGONS AND MY DARK EVILS), it was really that realization that most captured my attention.
A warm thanks to Tracy and Orbit for my spot on the tour!
The Black Coast by Mike Brooks
ℹ️ Released Feb 16, 2021 by Orbit (UK) | Genre: Epic fantasy | Series: #1 The God-King Chronicles
A DAEMONIC WARLORD ON THE RISE.
When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them because they know who is coming: for generations, the keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Tjakorsha. Saddling their war dragons, Black Keep’s warriors rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own land by a daemonic despot who prophesises the end of the world, the raiders come in search of a new home . . .
Meanwhile the wider continent of Narida is lurching toward war. Black Keep is about to be caught in the crossfire – if only its new mismatched society can survive.Synopsis for The Black Coast
You might find it curious I used my “had a good time” badge on a book that doesn’t spare on the blood and murder.
Assuming a psychologist could have a field trip with that thought and moving on, the truth is Mike Brooks‘ The Black Coast melds the intimidation of a 600-page read with the easy enjoyability of a short story that’s over too soon.
Alongside a main plotline about two previously warring cultures slowly coming together to survive ruin, the world seems inspired by several known mythologies and cultures. Although worldbulding certainly takes the top prize of things that will fight for your attention, the character arcs are really what substantiate the focus of the story.
There’s nothing I love more in epic fantasy than a good multi-pov. When used with care, it’s a fantastic weapon to show the reader the full scope of a world, and bring them into as many different mindsets as one author is capable of producing. Brooks‘ use of multi-pov is sharp as a sar’s blade (and yes, that’s a reference 😉 ) as it spans his world.
Ultimately, one of the storylines rises above all others, that of Daimon Blackcreek, adopted son of the thane of Blackcreek, and Saana Sattistutar, chief of the Brown Eagle clan.
As Saana and her people come to the shores of The Black Coast, where rises the stronghold of Blackcreek, Daimon must face those his people only know as bloodthirsty raiders with an open mind that will rival many of the sar’s honor code. For the Brown Eagle clan has come to seek shelter from the demonic presence that threatens their lands, and not to pillage.
But men, even the mighty sars who ride on their war dragons, have always feared change most of all.
Daimon must find it inside himself to raise his arms against his own father and brother, and allow the Brown Eagle clan to settle all the while protecting his own people. Saana must fight to do the same, in a land far stranger than she envisioned, and a culture she disdains.
Their cultural clash takes up most of the book which sort of caused the other storylines to pale in comparison. Tila and Jeya’s storylines are not easily unnoticeable though.
As both princess of Narida and feared criminal overlord, Tila leads her double life of court frustration (much due to her brother’s shenanigans) and well, crime lord frustration. It’s frustration all around for Tila, which made her a thoroughly enjoyable character. In beautiful contrast, Jeya does not need to play dangerous games, for her life is naturally so, as one of the many children life threw on the streets of Kiburu ce Alaba.
Among them, with fairly no storyline at all, but whom I loved immensely, is Darel Blackcreek. Don’t ask me why I always go for the passing side characters but by god, I trust that man.
Brooks tied together enough strings that we can see how all these characters connect now and how they may connect in the upcoming installments of the series. He gives enough that we can look with hopeful expectations to the events that are to come in the next book, while not revealing his full deck of cards.
Not only that, he populates his book with dragons that seem inspired by either dinosaurs or the mythical beings I know from Mesoamerican or East Asian mythology, knights in badass armor spearing their enemies, a non-binary culture that expresses gender (when it does) through diacritics, and plenty fight scenes to satisfy the bloodthirsty reader.
Although the plot came with few surprises for me, it’s a satisfying read that does not adhere to genre shackles, full of mythology, culture, and with a foreboding kick to the end. It’s a story of change, of working together in community, and of loving without distinction. And, arguably, of shitting on toxic masculinity (which, hell yeah).
A masterclass in commitment, as I believe it’ll leave you wanting more from the storylines set, leading you on to the next book of the series.
Ps: I have resolutely decided I will name my next pet ‘Bastion’ 🥲
Possible trigger warnings:Amputation, murder, infanticide
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Connect with Mike Brooks
Mike Brooks is the author of The God-King Chronicles epic fantasy series, the Keiko series of grimy space-opera novels, and various works for Games Workshop’s Black Library imprint including RITES OF PASSAGE and BRUTAL KUNNIN. He was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, and moved to Nottingham to go to university when he was eighteen, where he still lives with his wife, cats, and snakes. He worked in the homelessness sector for fifteen years before going full-time as an author, plays guitar and sings in a punk band, and DJs wherever anyone will tolerate him. He is queer, and partially deaf (no, that occurred naturally, and a long time before the punk band).
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