I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
When I saw Plague of Giants pop up on NetGalley I was so excited! I’m a fan of Hearne’s Iron Druid series so I couldn’t wait to see what he thought up next!
I was definitely not disappointed! Plague of Giants is a brand new series – Seven Kennings – set in a brand new universe. Instead of an urban fantasy like Iron Druid, Plague of Giants is more of a traditional high fantasy. Epic adventure, bards, pre-technology society, magic (called kenning), kings, and espionage are all present.
Plague of Giants is a story within a story – a central bard ties different characters’ threads together as he shares the many stories of how the war we’re thrust into at the beginning of the novel came to be.
There are seven societies at the center of our story and each society is built around their own specific form of kenning, and each of those broad kennings has specialist sub-forms of kenning or magic. One has kenning related to water, another to fire, a third to wood and plants, a fourth to earth and a fifth to air. (I do have those out of official order. Fire is referred to as “the first kenning” so there is an order of discovery.) You may recall that the series is called the Seven Kennings. You’ll have to read Plague of Giants for more information about Kenning # 6 and #7.
The kennings and societies built around them feel much like the elemental societies of the Avatar: The Last Airbender or Legend of Korra animated shows on Nickelodeon. If you’re familiar with The Last Airbender, then the quote “Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked” will feel very appropriately applied to Plague of Giants.
Hearne weaves a rich tapestry of complex characters that drive the story forward. He jumps from character to character, fleshing each out with different POV sections. It’s in these different sections that we meet a variety of diverse characters. Hearne has obviously taken some of the general criticism of High Fantasy as a genre – that it’s painfully white and heterosexual – to heart. His cast of characters includes more than one LGBT character and more than one non-white race – including POV sections from characters of those non-white races. It’s heartening to see someone so prominent in the fantasy world do something to address the yawning chasm where diversity should be. Characters are given space to breathe and grow and ponder the ethics of their decisions.
I will admit that I was afraid that in his shift from lighthearted urban fantasy to high fantasy, Hearne would swing too far toward a stiffer storytelling and lose some of his signature humor that charms us all in the Iron Druid series. I am glad to be wrong. Hearne’s humor is deftly applied and just as satisfyingly clever. Many of Hearne’s fans adore the dog Oberon in the Iron Druid series, but I find the dog to be pretty obnoxious and the opposite of charming. (The dog’s obsession with females is kind of gross and sexist.) I’m pleased to find no parallel character in Plague of Giants. Instead, Hearne takes the best of Iron Druid’s wit and humor and injects it into The Seven Kennings. I found myself laughing out loud and rolling my eyes at the best (worst) puns.
Plague of Giants is a masterfully written pivot for Hearne and I’m simply dying for the next installment of the series, A Blight of Blackwings. Do yourself a favor and run right out and buy this for yourself.
Plague of Giants is the first in Kevin Hearne’s new series, Seven Kennings, and will be released October 17, 2017.