What the gods give with one hand, they take away with the other, for if you are gifted, you shall also be cursed.
Over fifty years have passed since Daleth the seemingly immortal Witch-King, and his army conquered the Ember Kingdom.
Now, with the once fertile lands and its enslaved people dying around him, the Witch-King, driven by his insatiable thirst for eternal youth, prepares his forces to march on the prosperous neighbouring Freestates. It will be the beginnings of a conquest that could destroy nations, bringing death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.
Then, when a peasant huntress whose rare gift was concealed from birth is exposed, it sets in motion a chain of events that could alter the destiny of generations to come.
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4/5 stars read on Kindle
I actually won both books 1 and 2 of the Gifted and the Cursed trilogy in a giveaway by Storytellers on Tour, so thank you very much, Justine, Timy and of course Marcus Lee!
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Page Count: 416
Age Group: YA / Adult
Kings and Daemons is a character driven dark fantasy set in a world devastated by one of the Kings from the title, Daleth the Witch King, who gains strength and longevity through sucking the life out of the lands and people he conquers.
Each of the characters we meet in this story is fully fleshed out and we are given their back stories and feel like we know them and understand their motives, however dark.
Daleth is pure evil, a typical fantasy villain and yet when we hear of his childhood backstory we maybe even feel a little sympathy for him. He collects people with magical gifts and either puts them to use in his evil campaign to overrun as many lands as possible, or has them killed. He himself has the gift of spirit walking; he is able to travel the spirit pathways while sleeping and visit anywhere he has previously set foot to spy on his lands. He is also able to spirit talk to his overseers miles away from him and keeps receiving the prophetic message ‘Kalas is coming’ without knowing who or what Kalas is.
Daleth’s army are ruthless and relentless, all compassion and empathy taken from them the minute they are given an amulet which denotes their allegiance to the Witch King and contains a small piece of ‘soul stone’:
“These stones deadened the soul, enhancing base emotions such as hatred and cruelty while suppressing others such as kindness or remorse, making whosoever wore them ruthless and cold.”Marcus Lee
Maya is a peasant girl, gifted with magical healing abilities. She can create gardens and bring forth life where only dust and dirt has been before. She is also able to spirit walk and visit others in her sleep. The Witch King is aware of these gifts since she visited him in her sleep and he saw her. Now he wants her captured and brought to him.
Daleth sucks the life from the land by conquering it. As such he is the opposite of Maya, who brings forth life everywhere she goes. He had hoped to be able to use her gift so she could replenish lands he drained and then he could sustain himself from those lands once more, but he finds he is unable to drain lands she has brought back to life. She therefore becomes useless to him and he decides she must die.
Rakan is a captain in the Witch King’s army and therefore a merciless killer. He made Taran a corporal to save his life.
“Rakan’s eyes looked misty, ‘I can’t wait,’ he said, ‘I just can’t wait. The slaughter, the blood, the pleas for mercy, it makes you feel so alive!’ “Marcus Lee
Over the course of the novel, however, Rakan’s character completely transforms. Once he stops wearing the amulet he becomes more human again and begins to see the error of his ways. He is now capable of empathy and becomes like a father to Taran by the end of the story. Taran and Maya’s love story is very sweet and a small ray of sunshine in a dark land. They give Rakan hope for the future, just as Maya spreads a trail of hope by her very footsteps in a land full of despair and sickness.
Taran is one of the heroes of this story and Maya’s love interest. He is gifted with the ability to read minds and tap into memories. He gets conscripted to the Witch King’s army by Rakan against his wishes. He never loses fights since, by using his gift, he can tell what his opponent’s next moves will be.
Taran is given the amulet which makes him bloodthirsty and uncaring. Luckily he recognizes its effects on him and removes the stone so he can continue wearing the amulet without having to suffer it’s effects.
Kalas is a very interesting character. He is possessed by one of the daemons of the title, as is Alano, his fellow soldier from fifty years ago. They were each possessed by a minor daemon brought forth from the nine hells via a portal opened by King Anders’ magi in a bid to protect himself and his legion of elite royal guard against the invading armies:
The magi had believed they would gain the strength of the hell-born, the speed, the inexhaustible stamina and they were right, but they hadn’t known that they would share their minds, their thoughts and that the daemons would try to twist them to their wills and ways.Marcus Lee
Kalas receives renewed youth and strength after feeding on soldiers from the Witch King’s army, who murdered his wife and child. He struggles to keep the daemon under control now it has been reawakened after 50 years laying dormant. He is driven to fulfill the vow he made all those years ago, to kill the Witch King, or die trying, but now there are a hundred thousand soldiers on the Witch King’s side, getting ready to invade the Freestates.
The scenes with the daemons, driven only by bloodlust and hunger to kill are very dark and filled with gore and could just as easily belong in the horror fiction genre.
Marcus Lee is talented at describing his locations so that you can see them before you. From the opulence of the Freestates reigned over by King Tristan, to the sick and dying lands reigned over by the Witch King and the wonderful areas of beauty and regrowth brought about by Maya’s gift, everything is richly depicted and easily visualised.
Long banners and tapestries hung on the walls, depicting not famous battles or heroic deaths, but rather the god of greed. Gold and jewels dripped from between his fingers, raining down upon the Freestates in approval of their pursuit of wealth, the noblest pursuit of them all.Marcus Lee
As can be expected in a tale of Kings, there are also plenty of political machinations in this book which lend depth and intrigue to the story. Anthrain is Tristan’s bodyguard, yet he plans to overthrow Tristan and become king instead.
Oh and did I mention, there are also giants! The elder of the giants sums up the premise for the trilogy’s title The Gifted and the Cursed nicely in the following exchange with Taran:
Everyone who is gifted, young Taran, is also cursed. Mark my words. Look to your chosen one beside you. When she uses her gift to heal others, she ages herself. This Daleth the Witch-King as you call him, lives for hundreds of years, yet has no heirs and likely suffers from being unable to sire children. Kalas, your new comrade, would seem to have been gifted with extraordinary speed and skill, but was then possessed by a daemon.Marcus Lee via Elder Giant
I read the second half of the book in one day, which is quite a rare thing for me to do, but I was completely gripped. Most of the second half of the book seems to be leading up to an epic battle between the two Kings and their armies, so I am excited to see that in the next instalment, Tristan’s Folly, which I am very much looking forward to reading soon.
About the Author
Writing hasn’t always been my main hobby … but it has always been there, lurking in the shadows, serving me well when called upon.
As I look back over the years, I realise I was guilty of writing many short stories, as well as poetry, and I’d like to think, that even if they were never intended to be published, they were nonetheless warmly received by the intended recipients.
Then in 2019, I was inspired to write not just a short story, or poetry, but a book. Then, suddenly, one book turned into a trilogy and a labour of love, and it was a love I wanted to share with the world.
So, here we are. The pandemic that put my career in sport on hold also gave me the opportunity to lavish time on my alternative hobby, or if demand dictates my new career.
However, only you, the reader, will decide whether this trilogy which is still a work in progress, will be the first of many. I genuinely hope so.
Who knows, now these creatives juices are flowing, I might just keep on writing anyway.
Epic Fantasy has been my favourite genre since I first read The Odyssey and The Illiad by Homer as a seven-year-old. Now it’s my turn to see if I can bring another world to life in the imagination of others.
My website is www.marcusleebooks.com
You can contact me through my webpage with any feedback, on this, my debut book.