Book Review: Kings or Pawns by J. J. Sherwood

Well butter me up and call me a biscuit…paint me green and call me a cucumber…knock me down and steal my teeth! That’s all I can think to say after finishing JJ Sherwood’s first novel. And that’s how I feel too! Like I’ve been knocked down and had my teeth stolen…or my heart stolen…by JJ Sherwood’s story. There were seriously times when I put down the book and cussed like a sailor because of her gloriously painful plot twists (painful like when Sirius died in the fifth Harry Potter book). Any book that can make me cuss or cry, I think deserves five stars. The only reason I didn’t end up crying for this one was because I was too busy cussing.

Now I’m all in a flutter, I should probably start from the beginning. JJ Sherwood has recently debuted as a new author with her book Kings or Pawns, first in her epic fantasy series Steps of Power. Steps of Power is the first series of many in the land of Aersadore, a whole new fantasy world that will make Tolkein and George R.R. Martin fan’s drool. The scope of JJ’s world-building and complexity of the political intrigue are just two of the reasons I so enjoyed her first book. Here’s the summary from her website,

8,994 P.E.—The elven city of Elvorium has become corrupted to the core by politics. With his father dead and The Royal Schism at his back, Prince Hairem becomes the king of the elven world on Sevrigel. Young and daring, Hairem is determined to undo the council’s power, but quickly finds his loyal council members brutally murdered by an assassin loosed within the city.

As corruption and death threaten to tear the city apart from within, the warlord Saebellus threatens the city from without, laying siege to Sevrigel’s eastern capital. With the elven world crumbling around him, Hairem finds himself in a dangerous political balance between peace and all out war.

Now, of course, it can’t be all praise and glory. There are always places to improve and as a book critic, it’s my job to point them out. JJ is still a young writer, and it does show through occasionally with overly complicated, stiff, or clunky sentences. Some of the dialog and interplay between characters is a bit unbelievable as well, and lacks depth. But these instances were minimal, and did not take away from the overall enjoyment of the story. Overall, she has done a fantastic job of mastering the English language and the art of storytelling to give us a gripping tale of love and betrayal, war and deception, and the struggle to do what’s right even when its hard (or even know what’s right to begin with in this tangled web of politics!). Kudos to her editor, Alexandra, who I know personally and who did an excellent job on this book. Not to mention, her cover artist is great and she has a friggen interactive map of her world on her website! How cool is that?

Five thumbs up for JJ Sherwood (I grew three extra thumbs just for the occasion). She has put her heart, and a lot of hard work into this series, and it shows. Anyone who enjoys fantasy in general, epic fantasy in particular, elves, political intrigue and/or wants to start on a long journey of excitement and adventure, you should definitely read her first novel and then cuss like I did when you realize you have to wait more than 4 months for the next one!

For anyone who has read her story, what did you think? Got any suggestions for other great epic fantasy series or debut books? Comment below, please share this post, and subscribe to my blog for more great reviews!

JJ Sherwood is an author and cosplayer. When not orchestrating the lives and deaths of the people of Aersadore, JJ’s hobbies include drawing, video gaming, wearing a bathrobe, and eating too many baked potatoes. JJ Sherwood lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with one loving and extremely patient spouse, a bearded dragon, a monk parakeet, and four cats who look far too similar.