In a story where we are reminded life is unfair, Ransom does all he can to become a great and virtuous Knight of honor. All around him rages a brutal war of succession as kingdoms and lords vie for power and he’s reminded time and again he’s all alone…or does he have some hidden allies? Will this classic style, epic fantasy tale tickle the imagination or leave us yearning for something more?
Knight’s Ransom feels very much equal parts historical fiction/Arthurian legend style fantasy and a sort of Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire style fantasy(only Wheeler writes clean fantasy, you’ll find no sex, incest, rape, or extremely graphic battles). It also draws heavily on the time honored trope of innocent bumbling farmboy grows up to find his way into being the hero, though Ransom isn’t a farmboy, he’s the son of a warring king/lord whose father abandons him to his rival. Thankfully the rival is a kind hearted king that decides to take him in and raise him as his own son versus executing him in front of his father. But the premise is the same.
The world of Kingfountain feels very comfortable and Wheeler gives us pretty solid character building, at least for our main character of Ransom. If you enjoy a character who does everything he can to do the right thing, stick to his honor and virtue while not seeking or wanting fame or titles, yet constantly gets stabbed in the back and stomped down at every turn by those he trusts, then you’ll love his story.
It was really interesting to read a “clean” fantasy book after having read and enjoyed so many pretty graphic, dark, and explicit tales over recent years. At first it felt a bit bland, a bit sterile, but as the story progressed and I became more and more invested in Ransom and even Claire a bit, I found myself cruising through the pages.
There is very little “magic” in the book, though the small amount we see feels like a Lady in the Lake/Merlin inspired Spidey-sense and through most of the book it only serves to make Ransom feel a bit overpowered and to undermine the feeling he was ever really in danger. All in all, the story largely succeeded in spite of the magic elements rather than the magic elements doing much to make the story better. Though it is book one of a four book series and given the ending, I anticipate there is much more here to explore that will likely change that feeling from book one.
At the end of the day, however, I have to admit that while I enjoyed this book and I MIGHT continue on with the series, I do miss some of the more graphic or brutal elements found in other similar types of fantasy series. I like things to get DARK now and then and this one walks the line well with serving up a lot of tension and intrigue while staying clean enough for anyone to read. Which left me feeling like it was a bit tame and I wanted more darkness in many sections of this book.
The ideal person I’d recommend this book(and probably series) to is those that LOVE THE IDEA of Game of Thrones, but don’t like the brutality and graphic nature of those books, as well as anyone that enjoys classic fantasy tales in a style that feels like a modernized version of the Arthurian legends. With Knight’s Ransom you get the political intrigue and twisty-turny double crossing story beats, knight’s battling, even a little magic, and none of the abrasiveness from the other stories.
Enjoyable, just not mind blowing. Solid fantasy I’d recommend if you want a clean change of pace.
Knight’s Ransom(The First Argentines #1) by Jeff Wheeler gets 3.5/5 Stars