Book Review: “Kings or Pawns”

TITLE: Steps of Power, The Kings Book one: Kings or Pawns
AUTHOR: J.J. Sherwood
GENRE: High fantasy

Kings or Pawns

STORY: An elf kingdom is about to be ripped apart from within and without. Inside its walls, a newly-throned king beats his head against the rock of his corrupted council and tries to unravel their schemes while a mighty warlord ravages his land from without. It’s a hard fight to keep peace, power, and life itself from a pincer attack of evil.

This is the author’s first book in an intended, multi-faceted series.

The basic plot is intriguing. Who doesn’t want to see a young, pure king go up against a stuffy, arrogant, corrupted council? The reader does feel the frustrations of the king as he wrestles with their power and their stalwart devotion to their own stupid interests, such as sending soldiers to fight a petty battle when there’s a warlord bearing down on them.

There’s also the subplot of an elven general and his captain. The general is frustrated by his king’s inability to handle the council and his captain is practicing necromancy, an illegal magic. He’s also distracted by the wild animals endangering his homeland and the girl he left there. There’s a strong story there and I would like to see more of that.

Ironically, my favorite character is a side character: Alvena. She’s a handmaiden for the king with a major crush on him, so that’s just plain adorable. She’s also mute, so her interactions with others make her stand out against a frankly bloated cast. Plus, it seems she has some role to play in future books and I’m curious to see what happens to her.

RANDOM AWESOMENESS: Alvena beating down an assassin who’s about to kill the king and everybody else. Watch your six, dude. Chicks be dangerous.

The proper nouns. There are so darn many of them them–names, titles, cities, countries, races, gods, religions, brand names, pets, all of them made-up, fantasy names. Not only is it difficult to sort or who is who (or what), but it’s difficult to know which names are important and which are not. Some get drowned out by others only to pop back later on.

Did you notice how I named almost nobody in my review so far? That’s because I’m not sure I have everybody down correctly.

Now add that to a problem with setting the scene. Several times we’re put in a scene, but don’t know the details until they’re thrown at us. For example, the we come on a scene with the warlord. We know he’s sitting and that’s it. A while later, the book mentions his food and I said, “Wait, he was eating? I thought he was just kicking back.”

That happens a lot with the proper names. The characters will mention them and the reader is just supposed to guess who or what they are. Once, a proper-name died while someone was on a hunt, and only later did I realize it was a wolf, not a person, who a had died. Even at the end, many references went over my head.

It’s a very confusing book. However, if you’re a fan of George R.R. Martin or books where you need to write your own Wikipedia as you go, you may enjoy it.

RANDOM NITPICK: This is totally petty, but it irked me. I literally lost track of how many times a person was pulled out of some reverie. They’re either looking at something or thinking or something and someone will speak, pulling them back into the present. Over and over again. End of rant.

OVERALL: 3.5/5 stars. While it was hard for me to gather my bearings–regularly–the main plot was still engaging. I still like seeing good guys go up against corrupt ones, the twisted political game is still intriguing, and I liked Alvena so much that I wanted to see what would happen to her next. The ending was also very exciting and left me curious about the next book. That alone earned half a point.

RATINGS (For those who care):
Violence: 7/10–A few nasty scenes, but it’s not a constant thing.
Sexuality: 6/10–Some mentions of nudity, sex, and prostitution, but nothing descriptive.
Language: 8/10–A few strong words, but mostly lighter fare.
Substances: 2/10–Mentions of a drink or drug, but little more than that.
Mature Themes: 3/10–Corruption, betrayal, dark magic, nothing too haunting.

You can find Kings or Pawns on the author’s website,, or on the following sites: link.
Barnes and Noble/Nook link.
You can also read more reviews on Goodreads.

You can also subscribe to Ms. Sherwood’s website for more about the book and the rest of the intended series or follow her Twitter handle @JJ_Sherwood.

Got a book you’d like me to read and review? Email me at Click here for more details on my review policies (near the bottom of the page).

2 thoughts on “Book Review: “Kings or Pawns”

  1. I like your layout for this book review. Very detailed, concise and organized. I may have to “borrow” this format! It definitely makes for easier reading and comprehension. This is something I feel like my own book reviews lack.


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