Book Review: Antiphon, by Ken Scholes

Antiphon is the third book in the Psalms of Isaak series. You’re going to want to read the first two books before reading this one. They’re both excellent books anyway so you really don’t have much of an excuse. If you haven’t heard of Ken Scholes yet you’re in for a treat. His books will be your new addiction. He leaves you wanting more, and more, and more.

AntiphonFrom the publisher:

Nothing is as it seems to be.

The ancient past is not dead. The hand of the Wizard Kings still reaches out to challenge the Androfrancine Order, to control the magick and technology that they sought to understand and claim for their own.

Nebios, the boy who watched the destruction of the city of Windwir, now runs the vast deserts of the world, far from his beloved Marsh Queen. He is being hunted by strange women warriors, while his dreams are invaded by warnings from his dead father.

Jin Li Tam, queen of the Ninefold Forest, guards her son as best she can against both murderous threats, and the usurper queen and her evangelists. They bring a message: Jakob is the child of promise of their Gospel, and the Crimson Empress is on her way.

And in hidden places, the remnants of the Androfrancine order formulate their response to the song pouring out of a silver crescent that was found in the wastes.

It all started with a song…

What can I say about Antiphon that I haven’t said about the previous two books in this series? This book will probably take you places you didn’t think you’d be visiting. I will say we finally get some answers to a few of the question we’ve been pondering since the first book in the series. They may not be the answers we expect, but they are answers none-the-less. That’s one of the things I really like about this series, the fact that things aren’t always what we think.

It’s clear to see Mr. Scholes is getting all the pieces in play for an eventual final showdown. This is the first book where I can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, or series. There really are so many well thought out elements to this series that I’m amazed it all comes from one guy. I’m starting to think Ken is really a mechroservitor in disguise.

What really shines is the approachability of Ken’s writing style. I never feel in over my head with flowery prose or long winded explanations. He keeps things simple, yet elegant.

This is the first book of the series where I felt the pacing dragged some. To be honest, I think the previous two books were so expertly crafted that any dip in quality becomes a little too obvious. Right or wrong, we expect everything Ken writes to be as good as Lamentation and Canticle. We become so invested in these characters that we have strong opinions on how they should evolve. I think that’s a testament to a master story teller. It also becomes a double edged sword. If Ken takes his stories to places his fans don’t agree with, they’ll probably rise up with pitchforks and torches demanding he change things. I can only hope we all trust Ken enough to let him guide us toward the epic finale that’s sure to come.

I don’t know if any of you know this, but Ken’s literary agent has been dubbed Jin Li Tam’s 32nd daughter. I think that’s awesome.

I only have one question: Who is the Crimson Empress? Seriously, I love how one of the main antagonists is still shrouded in mystery three books into the series. Ken shows great restraint and makes plenty of intelligent choices when he writes. As long as he brings these same sensibilities to all his future projects, I’ll be along for each ride, money in hand.

What I liked:

  • The rich history. Ken has done an exceptional job creating a fully realized society of people. He covers everything from religion all the way to government hierarchy, immersing readers in a living, and real, society. Ken creates such depth with all of the lore he incorporates into his books.
  • The characters. Dude, I think I like every character, even the minor ones. I’m a huge fan of Grymlis, Winters, and Neb. Even Vlad Li Tam has grown on me. I can’t wait to see what happens to them next. Each character develops in their own way as the story unfolds adding conflict in places and evolving other plot threads. If each character were a ball Ken was juggling, he’d have like fifteen balls in the air. Yep, he’s really a mechroservitor.
  • The chapter structure. I call it machine gun pacing, where readers get several pages of each POV character which make up each chapter. It makes our reading time seem to breeze by.
  • Plot twists. You never know what’s part of something bigger and who may not be what they seem. It keeps readers on their toes. I love it.
  • Familiarity. Readers can pick up Antiphon and slip right back into the Named Lands without feeling like they missed a beat. It’s like visiting an old friend.
  • It finally feels like we’re a land torn apart by war. I can finally see the toll war has taken on the Named Lands. Assassinations, espionage, and political intrigue become commonplace and it takes its toll on some of our beloved characters.
  • Action! There is plenty of action in this book capped off by an epic fist fight and a mad scramble to get aboard a  ship that unfortunately everyone doesn’t make. Antiphon really honed in on smart and memorable action scenes.

What I didn’t like:

  • This is the first book where it felt like the pacing dragged some. Not a whole lot, but noticeable enough as compared to the previous two books.
  • I didn’t particularly agree with the direction of a certain green turban wearing character’s direction in this book. It’s not that I couldn’t see what happens to him as really happening, I just didn’t think it seemed all too logical for his character. I realize this is only a personal preference, so I…hang on a sec, someone’s at the door. *opens door* “What can I do for you?” *mob shakes pitchforks and torches* *slams door* 🙂

Overall: I’m giving Antiphon four and a half stars out of five. This book is a great read and a worthy continuation of the Psalms of Isaak series. While Antiphon isn’t the best book in the series, it gives readers more of what they’ve come to expect and love from a Ken Scholes book. If you like Lamentation and Canticle, you’ll definitely like Antiphon too. If you’ve made it this far into the Psalms of Isaak series, you’ll probably be getting the next two books in the series too. I know I am. FYI, Requiem is out now. I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about these books. If you value our friendship, you’ll go out and give them a try. You can thank me later. 😉

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