Coming-of-age novel with all the fundamentals of fantasy writing, Prabhleen Notra
January 25, 2022
“Rise from the ashes, my Phoenix.”
There were two deaths; one prompted a war between species, the other became a catalyst for a final, defining battle. Years before the main story begins, there was a Pixie King who hoped to negotiate amongst the four kingdoms of the land. To the dismay of his daughter, those who he tried to commune with caused his untimely demise. Thus, the antagonist was born: a revenge-driven, humanity-less pixie queen.
Phoenix is a 17-year-old boy with no intention of succeeding his father — King Raymond — as he does not believe he has the ability. Upon receiving news of his fathers’ death, Phoenix finds himself with the role, in spite of his lack of knowledge regarding the position.
When his mother is also taken from him by the Pixie Queen, Phoenix knows he has to act and save her with the help of his only friend: Mokie, a runaway pixie. Caught between juggling being king, leading an army, saving his mother, and deciding what to do with his contradictory thoughts about the war, Phoenix is left attempting to join together the pieces of the puzzle that has become his life.
The Last Kingdom by Denika Mead is a fast-paced tale with aspects of coming of age and good vs. evil.
“How long can your brainwashed servants keep you safe?”
When it comes to The Last Kingdom, I was quite intrigued by the blurb and interested in seeing the fantasy incorporation as it is a genre I am fond of. While reading the story, it was something that I was looking out for and I was not disappointed; there was depth behind the pixies and their actions with information strewn around in small hints, rather than obnoxious tells, adding more history and allowing for better understanding.
In general, I really enjoyed the story, however, one fun little aspect that made it even better was the code that we were given and could break with the guide at the back. I’m a huge fan of puzzles and codes, so I loved being able to translate what was written with the key. Be that as it may, something I didn’t like quite so much was the beginning. I had no clue The Last Kingdom was part of a series and I’ve no idea if that’s what it is, but the prologue of the novel had me confused out of my wits.
Rather than introducing the characters straight on, Mead uses character names straight away. In a sense, it kind of takes away the effect I think the prologue was meant to have. Since this was my first time reading a book in the series, it could be that there is background knowledge in the prior ones, but coming into The Last Kingdom, I was more focused on trying to understand what was going on and who everyone was as opposed to feeling the tension being written.
Moving on from that, there are the characters in the story. For the most part, I loved reading about the different personalities shining through for each person. Phoenix, our protagonist, is written exceedingly well, especially when he talks and thinks about his problems. Out of everyone, he also grows the most as a character — hence the coming of age theme. Mokie, Phoenix’s best friend and a pixie, also has history that explains her devotion to Phoenix.
The Pixie Queen is where I get confused. I understood her motives at first, but then came a confession that made no sense to me in terms of why. But that aside, her character was also well portrayed as the antagonist with a vengeance-fueled purpose. Most of all, I loved that there was character growth even inside characters who one might not have even thought twice about. I thought it to be very nice.
I recommend The Last Kingdom to those interested in fantasies that are conflict-based and a little more fast-paced, not beating around the bush too much.
To summarise, Mead has written a wonderfully adventurous coming-of-age fantasy novel that is a quick and fun read while still holding all the fundamentals of fantasy writing. It highlights how characters deal with and process the events around them in a realistic way that makes it much more pragmatic and relatable.
The Last Kingdom is a story that will keep me on my toes as I look forward to seeing it conclude with its next instalment.
“Once a king has fallen, his people will follow.”
- Prabhleen is 15 years old and lives in Hamilton.