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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
The Redemption of Kings by Mark Castleberry is set in the land of Connacht, where the Ghel people face divine punishment for straying from their faith in the Lord of Light, while King Nazzar of Ash seeks to conquer and enslave them. Four young Ghel men, including Aeron, remain faithful despite their enslavement, and Aeron interprets a prophetic dream for the king. King Nazzar mandates the worship of a golden statue of himself, leading to defiance by Ghel gardeners who miraculously survive execution. Aeron's interpretation of another dream prompts the king to consider a religious shift, causing unrest. King Nazzar mysteriously disappears, but upon his return, he decrees the worship of the God of Light and the destruction of other idols. Rena, the king's concubine, opposes these changes and conspires with her son Naymor to restore old traditions. This leads to a tyrannical reign with Rena's involvement in dark witchery and hidden agendas.
While the prevalence of Christian fantasy novels is certainly on the uptick, finding one that will appeal to readers of all faiths is something I struggle to come across. After an initial flip-through of The Redemption of Kings by Mark Castleberry, I saw that this book relied on real storytelling to convey a message with nuance. It is in the nuance of symbolism that Castleberry is able to show his skill as a writer. This extends to analogies and metaphors, which are all thoughtful and unique, providing layers of meaning and depth. Castleberry does well in threading internal and external conflict and tension into every scene. The standout to me is King Nazzar's internal concerns about Naymor's potential rule and the changing era juxtaposed against the external conflicts that arise, such as the skallion beasts attacking the farmers' animals and the looming transition of power. The writing is clear, clean, and straightforward in a way that makes it accessible, making it a perfect fit for readers who enjoy fast-paced fantasy that packs a big punch. Recommended.