Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Black Holes, Broken Bones, and Stolen Souls ~ A Review of "The Secret Kings" by Brian Niemeier

Check it out Here!

This review has been a long time coming, but Brian Niemeier's books are not easy to review. I mean that in a good way. This is because they are not only so different from what the mainstream publishers put out but also because they are different from each other. Nethereal was structured like an old anime series from the late '70s or '80s, and Souldancer was like a Dreamcast-era RPG in how things shook out. The Secret Kings is different from even those.

That's not to say there is no consistency between them. All three books are space opera with heavy fantasy, science fiction, and horror elements, in different proportions. They all follow a coherent story that build off the previous one in the series. They also could be read standalone--at least the first two could. The Secret Kings could be called the third book in the series, but also could be read as either the sequel to Nethereal or Souldancer if you had only read one of them. The third book drops you almost in the middle of the characters' journeys and expects you to keep up. This is not a bad thing, as both the first two books were perfect jumping on points for this series and at some point the author has to address those who want to see more of the world and characters. It's a long way of recommending either of the first two books (or both!) to read before this, but that isn't a slight against it. They are all rather absorbing.

Now let's get into the actual tale.

The Secret Kings is the best book in the series so far. The fantastic characters from the first two books (well, the ones who aren't dead) are all here and even more engaging than they were before.The story of demons attempting to rule the "universe" which had been set up throughout the first two books is finally put into motion and a certain villain returns with greater plans. But because of the ending of Souldancer, this plot strikes on a different level than you would think. It isn't just about saving the universe. While this is a fight to survive and save the Middle Stratum from the Void, it is also a fight to save souls from the darkness the surrounds them all.

Characters from both Nethereal and Souldancer appear in prominent roles, embroiled in a plot that stretches much further than they originally thought it would. My personal favorite character from Nethereal appears in a main role, so this reader found himself pulled in extra fast. Because of the already engaging characters and the quick plot turns, The Secret Kings grabs the reader and holds them much quicker than the first two books did, and that is to its advantage. It also helps set it apart from the rest of the series.

While this is a Space Opera, featuring plenty of action and adventure, it is also a story of good against evil. It might not be obvious to those who might have only read Nethereal, but the war goes a bit beyond the events of the main plot at times and adds extra scope to the tale. This adds a layer to the story that I certainly appreciated.

And to get this out of the way, because it is sure to ruffle feathers, the book is Pulp. There is no respect for genre boundaries, there is clear romance of the old kind, there is defined good and evil, there is wonder, action is constant and focused on, and the pacing, despite the book's length, never stumbles. It clearly falls into a pulp revolution mold, and is all the better for it.

It's also Superversive. While the Soul Cycle series is dark and contains characters who do not always do the right thing, the objective morality of this world begins to clear as the overarching story progresses. It lifts the reader up with its imaginative ideas and active characters, gripping them all the way to the last word. And it never steps on their hopes or pulls the rug out on the audience.

If you've read the first two books (or only one), then this one is a must read. The Soul Cycle contain the freshest and most inventive speculative fiction books in years. The major publishers would never put out something as risky and unabashedly fun as these are which only serves as a reminder as to why they are dying and independent and small publisher authors are growing. These books offer a clear case as to how the majors are missing out.

Now there remains but one book in the series, and I am eager to see how it all ends. This Dragon winning series has definitely been quite the ride so far.

Highly recommended.

You thought that was the end of this post? Well, it is the end of the review, but there's still more to it than that. I have another surprise for you.

The final book in the Soul Cycle is out now!

Here's the description:

The Zadokim healed the cosmos from the ravages of the Cataclysm, and the survivors made them kings. Now the Ophians, a ruthless insurgent movement, wage a vicious uprising against their immortal rulers’ two hundred year reign.
Xander and Astlin have transformed the desert world of Tharis into the hub of a flourishing trade empire. Their Nesshin subjects spread a new faith promising true freedom in another universe. But when Astlin seeks forbidden knowledge to resurrect her long-dead family, sinister forces exact a terrible price from those she loves. 
With the Ophian threat engulfing the spheres and a primeval terror rising from its prison, Astlin must turn to a shiftless gambler, the outlaw squire of a fallen knight, and a mismatched pair of smugglers to escape the ghosts of her past and save all souls from eternal death. But can mortals succeed where even gods have failed?

You can find it here!

I hope you're as excited as this reader is to see the epic conclusion. Mr. Niemeier has not disappointed yet, and this is guaranteed to be quite the ride to the finish.

If you want more great fiction, I'm currently writing action stories of my own. You can read one of them right now!


  1. Replies
    1. You are welcome, Brian. It was a lot of fun to read.

  2. Thanks for the review, Your review save help me to add this great book in my collection. I will download Ebook online and read this beautiful book.