Twelve Kings by Bradley Beaulieu (The Song of the Shattered Sands #1)

Sometimes you pick up a book with no expectations as to what it will contain, and in certain cases what you find is something truly magical. Twelve Kings is one of those books, I knew the basics, that the book would be following a girl and her life in the desert city of Sharakhai, but the book is so much more than that. Twelve Kings is a story about grief, revenge, justice and honour, with a dark secret running through its heart.

Twelve Kings follows Çeda on her quest to find out the truth behind her mother's death when she was eight years old. Now at the age of nineteen, we find out how much, as well as how little she has discovered. The majority of the book is viewed from Çeda's perspective, but the plot switches between other characters; sometimes friends, sometimes foes to give the reader a better understanding of how everything is connected, as well as encompassing this large city that to most of the characters is their whole world. Twelve Kings also gives us chapters set in the past which give us more insight into how Çeda became the person we know now. The flow of the story never suffers from this and it is interesting to read these past chapters and how Çeda remembers them. This also allows us to see the distortions and forgetfulness that time brings, it allows us, along with Çeda, to piece more of the jigsaw of her mother's death together.

Çeda is one of my favourite characters I have read this year, she is headstrong and determined and can even be reckless at times when trying to achieve her goals. Çeda has lived with her best friend Emre since she was a child. They are both loyal to each other and their friendship has always been special, but as they have aged their friendship has become more complicated by the paths they have set themselves on, which slowly see them growing apart as the secrets that both Çeda and Emre are keeping could see the other killed. Çeda has spent many years hiding in plain sight, either training the children of Sharakhai in sword fighting or competing in the pits as the mysterious White Wolf, who seeks retribution for the evils done to the people in her city.

Sharakhai is also the city ruled by the Twelve Kings. The Twelve Kings are quite mysterious but become more sinister as the story develops. They are the leaders of twelve tribes, who four hundred years ago saved the city from outside aggressors by making a deal with the pantheon of desert gods. These kings made a blood sacrifice to gain extraordinary powers, as well as creating the Asirim, monstrous creatures who keep the city safe for their masters. The Twelve Kings have lived for centuries and during this time they have become heads of large dynasties with their own personal security, known as the Blade Maidens. The Blade Maidens are the best warriors that Sharakhai has, they are made up of the first daughters of the Twelve Kings, guaranteeing their loyalty.

There is a growing resistance against the Twelve Kings who call themselves the Moonless Host. These are nameless men and women who work to undermine the Kings to create their downfall. You would think that Çeda would be part of this group, but she does not agree with their methods as each time they go against the Kings more innocent citizens are harmed by their terrorism. Çeda's reasons for hating the Kings is to be able to avenge her Mother, but as Çeda learns more about her Mother she realises that she may be connected to Sharakhai in ways she had never expected.

Bradley Beaulieu has written a beautiful novel that is intricately detailed without ever feeling overly complicated. The characters, of which there are many, are well written and their lives feel whole, even the characters who may only be seen in a chapter or two. Each character is given a role that will further Çeda and Emre's story. There is a rich mythology flowing through the story and I really enjoyed the history of the Twelve Kings and how, even they are not as harmonious as you would imagine. This is a story that shows how important the narrative you tell will affect your own standing in the world. I imagine that the next book in this series will reveal more secrets before it is done and I can't wait to find out just how far Çeda will go to find out the truth, about herself and the city she calls home.

10/10 Bradley Beaulieu has written a beautiful novel

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