The Iron Circlet by Phil Tucker (Chronicles of the Black Gate: Book 4)

The Iron Circlet is the fourth book in Phil Tucker’s Chronicles of the Black Gate series. It picks up exactly where the third book, The Siege of Abythos, leaves off. It’s another great entry in a series that is proving to be a mix of classic fantasy and modern elements. If you’re a fan of epic fantasy with engaging characters this is one you should absolutely be reading.

There is plenty to enjoy in Tucker’s fourth entry in his epic fantasy series. The action picks up immediately and doesn’t let up. Plot threads are coming together and spawning new threads at an incredible rate. The plot is fast-paced from the very first pages of the novel until the very last page. Downtime is not something that exists in this novel, and that helps it to shine. Going along with this, Tucker writes tight, pulse pounding action sequences that are second to none. Some of the battles in this novel are cinematic and epic in a way you’d expect to find in a summer blockbuster movie. Tucker excels and describing the action vividly, allowing you to see perfectly what’s taking place. The pacing is excellent, and the fight scenes are wonderful, but the best part of this novel continues to be the characters. At this point in the series we’ve come to know and love all the main viewpoint characters. Tucker has a penchant for writing characters that you want to read more about, even when they’re making decisions you dislike or that you know aren’t going to turn out well for them. He also crams an astounding amount of character development between the action sequences. The characters have come a long way over the three previous books and The Iron Circlet continues that development. There are questions of faith and religion, questions of identity and purpose, grief, pain, and moments of joy that the characters all must deal with throughout the novel. Each of these moments changes them. During a few of these I pumped my fists for joy, and during a couple I wanted to pull my hair out in frustration. It’s extremely well done, and these are some of my favorite characters in all epic fantasy. Asho, in particular, has grown by leaps and bounds as a character and it’s very satisfying to see him begin to come into his own.

My criticisms come mainly in terms of a couple sections of the plot where I felt like the characters didn’t particularly react in ways that coincided with who they were. For much of the novel, Kethe continues to have this struggle of faith that has just never seemed to make sense to me. Iskra, at one point in this novel, seems to just do as she’s told which - frankly - flies completely in the face of her character. There was also a sequence toward the beginning of the novel when everyone is making incredibly stupid tactical and strategic decisions and I’m not clear on why people suddenly seemed incapable of coming up with a sound battle plan. Each of these, in their own way, is really about how you connect with and understand the characters. Other readers may come away with a significantly different impression.

Another strong entry in what is proving to be an excellent epic fantasy series. If you haven’t already begun reading The Chronicles of the Black Gate, you need to do so. Tucker doesn’t disappoint with this one!

9/10 Another strong entry in what is proving to be an excellent epic fantasy series

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