Review: The Deer King by Ben Spencer

Posted May 16, 2019 by Lillian in Reviews / 2 Comments

Review: The Deer King by Ben SpencerThe Deer King by Ben Spencer
Series: The Deer King #1
Published by Knock-Knee Books on 2018-07-02
Length: 77 pages
Reviewing Kindle from Kindle Unlimited
Reading Challenges: Beat the Backlist 2019

One girl. A reincarnated war god. The chance to stop the carnage before it begins.

Emmaline Rain’s father is the Stoneman. His responsibility: travel into Massaporan lands and end the life of the reincarnated Massaporan deity—the Deer King—the instant he is born. But when he fails in this task, the delicate equilibrium between Emmaline’s people and the Massaporans is disturbed. It seems likely that the violence of the past will be renewed.

Emmaline’s father is soon murdered by a priest of the Bronze Titan for his shortcomings. Newly orphaned, Emmaline absconds with the Saving Stone in the hopes of finding the Deer King and completing her father’s work. But when she comes face-to-face with the Deer King, she realizes that relations between her people and the Massaporans are more complicated than she has been led to believe.

The Deer King is the first in a planned series of fantasy novellas set in Dreyland, a colonial world where the indigenous people rely on the strength of a reincarnated god to help them offset the technological superiority of the settlers.

The Deer King by Ben Spencer is the first in a series of novellas by the same name and is set in a fictional land reminiscent of colonial times. I found myself drawn to the setting. The author gives a complete view of through the characters, how they’re dressed, how they interact, and the differences in their behavior according to setting. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read in a novella. It is packed full of customs and culture created specifically for the series.

What I Liked

As previously mentioned, I really enjoyed the world-building. For a novella, Spencer gives a fully thought-out and fleshed-out world. I felt I could touch the trees, feel the biting cold, and breathe deeply of the mountain air.

A majority of the story is told from Emmaline Rain’s point of view. Emmaline is only thirteen when her father is killed by a priest of the Bronze Titan when he fails to fulfill his duty as a Stoneman. Emmaline, having only just learned what her father did as a Stoneman, is both horrified and determined to fulfill his duty. What that duty is though is to kill the Deer King, the neighboring tribes’ reincarnated god. Y’all that is putting it lightly. This girl has to go kill a baby. Naturally she fights the inclination, she tries to forget who and what she is, but dreams haunt her til she has no choice.

Where I Wanted More

While the setting of The Deer King is fantastic and haunting, the plot leaves a lot to be desired. It seems pretty straightforward. Emmaline is going to kill the reincarnated god her father failed to kill. However it isn’t that easy and the plot drags until the climax, then it just ends. There’s not really any closure for the characters. Now don’t get me wrong. I know this is a series and series a lot of the times end with cliffhangers. This isn’t that. It just ends. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet….

My Final Thoughts

Overall The Deer King was an okay read for me. I wasn’t blown away by the plot. Emmaline fell flat to me with little clarity on her actions or feelings. She was almost robotic in her actions at times. However the world-building is amazing. I loved the different cultures and customs Emmaline encounters during her journey. In all fairness, I believe this was a case of “It’s not you, it’s me.” This is not my normal read, and I found myself drifting and not focusing on the story when it is well-written, just not for me. If you enjoy historical fantasy, I think this is a book you will want to add to your shelves.

About Ben Spencer

Author Ben Spencer

Ben Spencer lives in Concord, North Carolina with his wife and daughter. He is currently hard at work on a series of epic fantasy novellas entitled The Deer King. The Deer King: Novella One and The Sundering: Novella Two are now available from Knock-Knee books. Ben's fiction has appeared in Literary Orphans, Corner Bar Magazine, and Scholars & Rogues. He has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

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