ARC Review: Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Legacy of Kings
author: Eleanor Herman
pages: 384
format: Paperback
isbn/asin: 978-0399171611
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 3.5/5 (from hated to loved) or 6.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Court of Fives by Kate Elliott, the T.V. show Spartacus, and other cinematic historical tales.
Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

in short

I'm a fanatic when it comes to the classical period.  I mean, I took Latin in high school.  That should give you a hint.  So, I was immediately struck with grabby hands when I found out that a bonafide, badass historian was going to write a fantasy about Alexander the Great.  What's the switch from writing sexy histories about scandalous emperors to teen fantasy romance look like?  Pretty good.  I wish I could say great.  The story just dragged on so, and there was an almost wide-eyed innocent quality to the writing that read a little too young.  There are also plot points that had my BS detector singing.  Yet, I trucked steadily through this book as though entranced, and I think I can attribute that to the history.  Herman's portrayal of classical Macedonia is so lush and lifelike that I found myself as interested in the descriptions of clothing and court customs as I was in the story (perhaps more).  If you can muscle through the slowness, it's worth it for the atmosphere.  

in depth

The story begins with Kat, an orphaned village girl with a special affinity for animals.  She and her best friend, Jacob, finally share the passionate kiss she didn't know she'd been waiting for.  But then Jacob is chosen to come to the capital to compete in a deadly competition of warriors, where the losers are lucky to live and the winner is lavished in glory and gold.  So Kat follows him to the capital of Macedon.  

But soon, she finds her fate entwined with that of Alexander, the unexpectedly kind prince, with whom she shares a seemingly preternatural bond.  Whose mother she's sworn to kill.  Alex tiptoes around the threat of war from the magic-hating Aeserian lords.  His sister wants to drive a wedge between him and his best friend so she can summon dark magic with his blood.  And across the sea, his fiancee wants to escape her fate, and finds herself even more trapped.  

Complicated?  You don't know the half of it.  I think that's part of why I slogged through the first half.  There are seven POVs that range in overlap from basically on the same arc to holy hell, who are you and where the hell do you fit with the rest of these crazies?  (Aka Zofia, who never intersects with the others for the entire book.)  Each character's arc is so elaborately conceived, with secret motives, inner passions, and complexities of character (which is good), but so separate that the tale feels disjointed.  Parts that do not quite form a whole.  Naturally, I struggled to find the unifying thread for much of the book.  

The plots themselves are often brilliant.  Herman treats her characters as viciously as history treated them.  They make devastating mistakes and suffer crippling defeats.  They also persevere with passions ranging from valiant to obsessive (*cough*sister of doom*cough*).  I especially loved Alex, who's almost too good and swoony to be true, but gets away with it because he's freaking Alexander the Great, y'all.  He's also just naive enough to open himself to horrors.  

His sister is also pretty cool, being a self-confident, badass manipulator who craves Alex's death, but loves Macedon even more.  Kat is pretty cool.  She's kind of generic YA-cool-girl, but I'm curious to know more about her magic.  On the other hand, Jacob is a whiny pathetic jerkface and Hephaeston (aka best friend) is so gullible that I practically screamed in disbelief.  I mean, seriously?  You're going to believe chick-whom-you-know-to-be-batshit over your best friend of forever?  

But when Herman edged into a groove towards the middle of the book, she caught me.  Plots begin to intersect, characters begin to act like intelligent human beings, and there's betrayal, blood, death, and magic galore.  (Who doesn't love spells using dead baby bones?)  And all of it is steeped such rich historical detail that through the slow parts, I found myself fascinated just for the history lesson.  While her writing errs on the naive side in some places, Herman's potential shines in her passionate portrayal of this ancient world.  If she can transfer some of that sharpness and beauty to her dialogue and plot, her sequel will be a fearsome thing.  

Ultimately, it's a worthwhile read, especially if you geek out on history and don't mind plot density.  It's a book that I enjoy more the more I think about it, with characters I care about (and some I'm really invested in just because I want to gleefully cackle over their corpses).  I doubt it'll be a frequent re-read, but I'm definitely checking out the sequel.  

in a sentence

Despite clumsiness in its over-sprawling plot, Legacy of Kings delivers on its promise of cinematic, historically rich fantasy.  


will i read this author again?  Yep 
will i continue the series?  Not gonna rush out, but I'm invested enough for book two.  Gotta watch my baby Alex.  

Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.


  1. AGH. Consider me scared. XD I just bought this and I was a little worried...because I've heard it's slow. BUT. I love historical fantasy and I love lush world building, so here's to hoping I enjoy it. XD

    1. Don't be scared! It's still really freaking cool.

  2. I wasn't WOWed by this one either but I am interested enough to also read the sequel! I'm hoping the plot is a little tighter now that the foundation has been lain! Great review!

    1. Same here. First books are tough in other-worlds. Thanks!