Magnificent Tales of Doomed Kingdoms
by Rupendra Dhillon
Genre: Fantasy / Historical
Print Length: 242 pages
Publisher: Elder Owl Press, Inc.
Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen
Power plays and human nature converge to herald the destruction of mighty kingdoms in this collection of short stories.
A leader can cause the rise of great kingdoms. Or make it collapse. In Magnificent Tales, kingdoms come undone by the best intentions or the worst. Love, greed, plague, war, religion, and ego all play parts in the terrible downfall of once powerful lands. In a world where a queen forsakes her king, where kings fail to prepare their heirs for leadership, and where wars that cannot be won are undertaken, doom is sure to follow.
Magnificent Tales of Doomed Kingdoms is a collection of four short stories that expound on the titular theme. While fictional, Tales of Doomed Kingdoms explores Indian mythology with depth and complexity. The writing style feels like a blend of fairy tale and lore.
In each tale, the kingdom at the center of the story fails but each for different reasons.
Most of these stories center around the main character having a fatal flaw. There’s a magnificence to this because it means that the destruction of the kingdom ties directly to the person leading it. The ruin, when it comes, is so much more devastating because we can see the steps that could have been taken to prevent it.
There are a lot of intricate themes recurring in these stories, but the one that stands out most is the idea of balance. The notion that assets, both physical and psychological, need to be weighed and measured. Pouring all resources into one basket is just as destructive as doing nothing at all. This is best illustrated in the final two stories. They play on each other, with each character’s major flaw being the reverse of the other. In “King’s Son” the problem is too much theoretical knowledge and too little practical while in “King’s Prize” the issue is the opposite.
“Queen Mother” is the strongest story in this collection. The tragedy of this tale is that all of the characters work hard together to do what they feel is right and they still cannot escape their fates. The final paragraphs are probably the saddest in the entire work. “Escape” seems to me the collection’s weakest link. The characters are reacting to events that they could not have foreseen coming, but it’s difficult to feel much about it. The story has the same growing desperation as the other pieces, but it feels there is no way for the viewpoint characters to alter the outcome. The fatal flaw concept also seems to be missing in this one.
The stories are compelling, and there is a charming fairy tale-like feel to the writing style. Despite knowing the general direction the story will ultimately take, you’ll feel a sense of loss as the story concludes. The fairy tale-like style carries the book well, keeping the poignancy but giving readers room to breathe after some stories’ crushing circumstances.
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