Author: Maurice Broaddus
Publisher: Angry Robots
Release Date: 2011
“There are fewer greater pleasures in a reader’s life than witnessing a writer whose work they have enjoyed reached a new plateau in their storytelling skills, and such is the case here… Broaddus delivers in a voice that both whispers and roars and cannot be ignored.”
— Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild Award-winner Gary A. Braunbeck
The Wire meets Excalibur
On the streets of Indianapolis, the ancient Arthurian cycle is replaying in the lives of rival street gangs. Told through the eyes of King, as he gathers like-minded friends and warriors around him to venture into the fastness of Dred, the notorious crime lord, this is a stunning mix of myth and harsh reality. A truly remarkable novel.
King Maker is a fascinating novel, a true urban fantasy in the literal definition of the term, and with assured prose and strong characters, should be on every SF fan’s shelf.
King Maker, the first book in The Knights of Breton Court trilogy, re-tells Arthurian myth in the streets of Indianapolis. On the surface it is definitely fantasy and a clever version of urban fantasy at that – and it is both of those. But the reality is much different. Whether the story of violent gang-banger, crack-head, drug-dealing, youths of the Indianapolis ghetto is an allegory for Arthurian myth, or if Arthurian myth has become an allegory for the struggles of the lost urban core of an American city.
Most of the characters have names that echo their legendary counterparts, although they're not all recognisably heroic at first. King James White knows the rules of Breton Court, rules like not appearing weak and the need to give as good as you get. He carries himself like a gang member, and it's only his quite but growing anger with the situation that sets him apart to begin with. Percy is a gentle yet simple young man whose lack of interest in exploiting others seems to single him out as a potential victim. There's Lott, a security guard, who is one of the few characters to hold down a lawful job. Another is Wayne, an outreach worker whose good deeds are confronted with apathy. Wayne tries to make a difference, but whatever he does seems futile in the face of so much corruption.
Broaddus’s story is grim and gritty, a world of gang crime, guns and drugs. The characters of the King Arthur legends are wonderfully and originally transposed to this setting – Uther Pendragon becomes Luther, cigarette smoke never far from his lips; Arthur is King James White, Merlin is Merle, Guinevere is Lady G, Lancelot is Lott, and so on. Each of these characters – and the many more who appear in the course of the story – are wonderfully crafted, each a unique personality. If Broaddus hadn’t managed this, a lot of King Maker would be reduced to confusing skirmishes and interludes. As it is, while the cast is large, the individual story threads are easy to follow and, importantly, easy to pick up when a character disappears then re-emerges several chapters later.