Published: August 1st 2013 by Harlequin
Format: eARC, 280 pages
Genres: New Adult, Paranormal
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King Hall — where the Mysticals go to learn their craft, get their degrees, and transition into adulthood. And where four new Rulers will rise and meet their destinies.
Lily Ruckler is adept at one thing: survival. Born a Mystical hybrid, her mere existence is forbidden, but her nightmare is only about to start. Fluke, happenstance, and a deep personal loss finds Lily deeply entrenched with those who would destroy her simply for existing — The Mystical Kings. Being named future Queen of the Shifters shoves Lily into the spotlight, making her one of the most visible Mysticals in the world. But with risk comes a certain solace — her burgeoning friendships with the other three Prodigies: a wicked Vampire, a wild-child Mage, and a playboy Elemental. Backed by their faith and trust, Lily begins to relax into her new life.
Then chaos erupts as the fragile peace between Commoners and Mysticals is broken, and suddenly Lily realises the greatest threat was never from within, and her fear takes on a new name: the revolution.
I strongly believe the first scene of a novel, the first paragraph, hey, even the first words, absolutely set the tone for the rest of the book. So you can imagine what I was thinking when the first words of King Hall were “Sex Education” and the first scene was an awkward, terribly clichéd sex ed class where the teacher proudly proclaimed that Mystics (who are supernaturally gifted) are better endowed than their human (Common, or Com) counterparts, and brandished two differently sized bananas around to make her point.
Yup, I basically thought this book was going to be about the main character doing the dirty with everyone in sight. Especially since in the first chapter, she couldn’t go two minutes without reminding us how awesome that aspect of her private life was. Imagine my surprise, then, to not find a single explicit sexual encounter, and further-more, no make-out scenes between the 4 protagonists.
The book is set in a world like ours, but where supernaturals are out in the open. There four different types of Mystic: Vampire, Shifter, Elemental and Mage, and each has a King (or Queen) who rules them for 20 years before choosing a successor. King Hall follows the four newest Prodigies as undergo leadership training. It’s like college – there’s drinking and dancing and sex – but everything is more complicated where magic is involved. Lily, our main protagonist and the future Shifter ruler, doesn’t want to be the future Queen, not only because she’s a hybrid and will be condemned to death if anyone finds out.
King Hall suffers mostly from being too vague: I don’t understand why the Mystics all school together but romantic entanglement isn’t allowed, and thus don’t really quite get what the big deal is with Lily’s secret, especially since everyone who finds out doesn’t care. I don’t understand the King system and what, exactly, is expected of a ruler of a class of Mystic. I don’t understand the mating magic, and like Lily, struggled with how little choice there seemed to be in the matter. There are a lot of world building elements that the author sneaks past readers by being hand-wavy, or by making it so complex you begin to think that it must make sense, and you’re missing something.
I feel the novel is let down because it doesn’t feel plausible: why would the announcement of the successors of the current Kings occur in a school gymnasium? Why do the four of them still have to pretend to attend school (they all graduate with college diplomas, but after they were announced as successors, I don’t remember them attending class, except when they learnt self-defence). I’d have also thought, that as heir apparents, they would have had a lot more security than they seemed to have around them, and that, in Lily’s case especially, there would be rules in place to prevent intimate relationships between the guard and the person they’re meant to protect.
But the book perked up when the four future leaders of the Mystics, two women and two men, are forced to train together. Their friendship is amazing, and I think it’s one of the strongest messages in the novel: the importance of friendship and loyalty in the face of everything else. But because Mystics traditionally don’t get along, their bonds are treated with mistrust by their future subjects, and things get a little awkward. I thought, with the four of them spending so much time together, that there would be awkward romantic tension and what-not, but the author handles it well with the mysterious mating magic rendering cheating impossible, and the only two unattached members of the group hiding too many secrets to be romantic.
That’s not to say there isn’t romance in the novel, because there is! But it takes a back seat to the friendships between our characters, and their journey to learn how to govern their peoples well, combine their magics to achieve goals, and generally learn the ways of the world they are going to eventually watch over. There are bawdy jokes aplenty though, and although some made me laugh, many were cringe-worthy. I also think that the author tried to make the blood exchanges between the characters sexy, but I mostly found them awkward. For example, Lily’s unusually small stature amongst the Mystics was an interesting quirk, until it led to her having to assume increasingly intimate positions with her partners to exchange blood – then it felt a bit contrived. And there’s an exchange scene right at the end that honestly confused me more than anything else, because … well you’ll have to read it to see what I mean.
I also liked the introduction to the politics of the world the author has created. The tensions between the Coms and the Mystics. It feels a bit archaic (especially when a political marriage was briefly on the cards) and I’d really like to find out more. I would have also liked a bit more insight into the Com state of mind. I don’t understand why the races don’t get along, although the Coms being threatened by the Mystics and their powers is certainly plausible.
Overall, I found King Hall to be enjoyable. It could have been better, but there is a lot to like about Dawn’s début, and I will keep an eye out for future books in the series. King Hall leaves the story open to a sequel, and I’d love one so I could learn more about the world, but mostly it’s been exciting to read an NA novel that’s not centred on sex.